A new method has been studied for turning cells into multipurpose stem cells. The technique, which exposes cells to a mild acid bath, may present a more efficient source of stem cells than those currently in use. While this method was only performed in a study with mice, the hope is it can be reproduced with human cells in the future.
The new method was tested by researchers in Kobe, Japan and in Boston. To achieve pluripotency, which is a cell’s ability to turn into any type of cell, the study took cells from newborn mice, exposed them to an acidic solution for half an hour, and allowed the cells to grow in culture. While many died from the acid exposure, others were turned into pluripotent cells that successfully created new tissue in other mice.
Many other successful means of growing stem cells are already in use. While it’s too early to say if this new method provides an effective means of producing stem cells from human cells, the possibilities are intriguing. Unlike other methods that require genetic changes, this technique is based only on exposing cells to stress, which seems to provoke reversion to a more primordial state. Further research will determine if human duplication is possible.