Scientists at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, have developed a new way of producing stem cells by exposing blood cells to diluted acid for around 30 minutes.
Currently scientists either harvest cells from human embryos, or re-programme adult cells into stem cells, a method which takes several weeks and has low success rates.
Haruko Obokata, the leader of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology Research team, explained how the new method works: “In the future this will potentially allow us to carry out organ regeneration in the body, and could help us to understand how we can control the production of stem cells to create cancer control technology.”
So far the technique has only been tested on mice. The results were positive, but it remains to be seen if they can be repeated in human beings. If they are, it may be possible to grow new organs, opening up a whole new range of therapies.
Haruko Obokata commented: “These cells can return to an embryonic state. In the future, we might be able to reach our long-dreamed goal, anti-aging.”
In fact, the potential benefits of this break-through are so positive that when the original research was presented, scientists had trouble believing it and the paper was rejected several times. Eventually enough cross checks were completed to satisfy researchers that the findings were real.