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Researchers turn adult cells back into stem cells

adult cells to stem cellsIn a step that has implications for stem cell research, human biology and the treatment of disease, researchers in Japan and at Harvard University have managed to turn adult cells back into flexible stem cells without changing their DNA.

The researchers discovered that they could put cells in various challenging circumstances – including in acidic solutions and under physical pressure – and turn mature blood cells into cells that were capable of turning into virtually any cell in the body.

The research, published today in the journal Nature, was in mice. If it can be repeated in people, it has the potential to transform research using stem cells to treat disease, and it may lead to a new understanding of how the body heals from injury, said Charles Vacanti, the Harvard Medical School stem cell and tissue engineering biologist who led the research.

Biology textbooks say that once a cell matures to serve a specific role, like, say a red blood cell, it can never go back into a less mature state. Vacanti and his colleagues say their new research upends that dogma.


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