The journal Nature Medicine has chosen a research project led by Manuel Serrano as the most important one of the year in the field of stem cells
he study demonstrated that cells within living organisms possess an unexpectedly high degree of plasticity
The embryonic stem cells produced inside the body correspond to a primitive state of totipotency that had never been attained before
The prestigious journal Nature Medicine has taken a look at the year and chosen one of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre’s (CNIO) studies as the most important one in the category of stem cells research. The special December edition of Nature Medicine selects the most notable advance in eight areas of research, which, together with stem cells, also include immunology, cardiovascular disease or neuroscience.
The study was directed by Manuel Serrano, director of CNIO’s Molecular Oncology Programme, and the team of scientists includes Maria Abad as first author of the paper, which was published last September in the journal Nature with the title Reprogramming in vivo produces teratomas and iPSCs with totipotency features (A CNIO team is the first to produce embryonic stem cells in living adult organisms).
This study showed that cells from a variety of tissues, such as the intestine, stomach, kidney or pancreas, can be converted into embryonic stem cells. To do so, CNIO researchers used the technique developed by the scientist Shinya Yamanaka (2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine) to obtain embryonic stem cells in vitro. The novelty of the CNIO study was to perform this technique directly within living organisms, with no need to cultivate cells under carefully controlled laboratory conditions.
“Being able to apply this technique directly within tissues from living organisms was a big surprise, as it was thought that invivo conditions would not allow for such an extreme degree of cellular plasticity”, says Serrano.
The journal Nature Medicine highlights that: “The significance of this work goes beyond the generation of a mouse with reprogrammable tissue”, adding that “stem cells created invivo reached a totipotent-like state and a plasticity that surpasses that of embryonic stem cells and other iPSCs made in a dish”.
In this context, the cells obtained in Serrano’s laboratory were even capable of forming pseudo-embryonic structures and extra-embryonic tissues such as the yolk sac.
The researchers emphasise that practical applications will take time to become a reality, but admit it opens a new direction for stem cell research and its applications for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
“The invivo reprogramming achieved this year may bring researchers one step closer to protocols that can accomplish controlled tissue reprogramming”, says the journal in its conclusion on CNIO’s work.
Video expalining the research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9R9DAGNEnw
Notable advances 2013. Nature Medicine (2013). DOI: 10.1038/nm1213-1564
Reprogramming in vivo produces teratomas and iPSCs with totipotency features. María Abad, Lluc Mosteiro, Cristina Pantoja, Marta Cañamero, Teresa Rayón, Inmaculada Ors, Osvaldo Graña, Diego Megías, Orlando Domínguez, Dolores Martínez, Miguel Manzanares, Sagrario Ortega, Manuel Serrano. NATURE (2013). DOI: 10.1038/nature12586