It's in the bank: Human cord blood reprogrammed into embryonic-like stem cells (Oct. 2009)
Human umbilical cord1 blood cells may be far more versatile2 than previous research has indicated. Two independent studies,
published by Cell Press in the October 2nd issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, report that they have successfully
reprogrammed human umbilical cord blood cells into cells with properties similar to human embryonic stem cells. The
results are significant as they identify cord blood as a convenient source for generating cells with a theoretically
Recent research has shown that adult cells can be reprogrammed into cells with characteristics similar to embryonic stem
cells by turning on a select set of genes. The cells, called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells3, have tremendous potential
for regenerative medicine. However, issues related to difficulty harvesting4 adult cells, inefficient reprogramming and the
accumulation of genetic errors (mutations) that may contribute to an increased risk for cancer and diminished cellular
functionality have presented formidable5 challenges. Human umbilical cord blood cells have been suggested as an attractive
alternative to adult cells for reprogramming.
"Cord blood-derived cells can be collected without any risk for the donor, are young cells expected to carry minimal
mutations and possess the immunological immaturity of newborn cells. We believe that cord blood cells could represent,
rather than just another cell type that can be reprogrammed, a real alternative for a safer source of iPS cells," explains
senior study author Dr. Izpisua Belmonte from the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain and The Salk Institute
in La Jolla, California.
Dr. Izpisua Belmonte and colleagues described a specific process that converted human cord blood cells into embryonic-like
stem cells using only two factors. "From a mechanistic point of view, the fact that cord blood-derived iPS cells could be
generated by activating only two genes is a crucial point that offers new possibilities for investigating the molecular
basis of the reprogramming process," concludes Dr. Izpisua Belmonte.
In a separate study, led by Dr. Ulrich Martin from Hannover Medical School in Hannover, Germany, cord blood cells were
also used to generate cells that exhibited characteristics typical of embryonic stem cells. Dr. Martin and colleagues
demonstrated that the iPS cells had the potential to differentiate into multiple mature cell types, including functional
heart muscle cells. "Our study provides a feasible strategy for the reproducible generation of iPS cells from human cord
blood" offers Dr. Martin. "Importantly, public and commercial cord blood banks may provide a superior and almost
unlimited source of for the production of clinically useful iPS cells."
Both research groups highlight the substantial clinical convenience of the existing networks for banking human cord blood
and the theoretical advantage of these "young" cells in that they may have a decreased risk of having accumulated damaging
genetic mutations associated with adult cells. The successful reprogramming of human cord blood cells into pluripotent stem
cells is an important step towards future regenerative therapies. "Our findings should facilitate the clinical translation
of iPS cell-based therapies," says Dr. Izpisua Belmonte.
C. 539 words
1. umbilical cord - Nabelschnur
2. versatile - vielseitig verwendbar
3. induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells - induzierte pluripotente Stammzellen (bin mir nicht ganz sicher)
4. to harvest - here: gewinnen
5. formidable - beachtlich, eindrucksvoll
1. What disadvantages do adult stem cells have in contrast to embryonic stem cells harvested from the umbilical cord.
2. What is the main reason why research on embryonic stem cells is forbidden in many countries, e.g. Germany.
3. What practical consequences do embryonic stem cells harvested from the blood of the umbilical cord have for the treatment of human beings?