An international team led by researchers from the University of Bristol could open the door to a new range of treatments for a variety of medical conditions. Published in the journal Nature Genetics, their paper details a new system that predicts how to create any human cell type from another cell type directly, eliminating all guesswork from the process.
“Our system, Mogrify, is a bioinformatics resource that will allow experimental biologists to bypass the need to create stem cells,” said Julian Gough, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Bristol.
Achieved for the first time back in 2007 by the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka, artificial pluripotent stem cells have been used to treat many different medical conditions, and, despite ethical controversy, are still intensely studied for potential future applications.
According to Professor Gough, the new system was already tested on several new human cell conversions and was found to be highly efficient, which is expected to enable the creation of a great number of human cell types in the lab.
Researchers’ ability to produce numerous types of human cells could lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds, to treat conditions from arthritis to macular degeneration, to heart disease. With further advancements in our understanding of cell production at the molecular level, scientists could eventually grow whole organs from a patient’s own cells.
“This represents a significant breakthrough in regenerative medicine, and paves the way for life-changing medical advances within a few years from now, and the possibility in the longer term of improving the quality of lives, as well as making them longer,” said Gough.
The system was developed over five year by Gough and Dr Owen Rackham, then-PhD student who now works at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. The algorithm was conceived from data collected as part of the FANTOM international consortium (based at RIKEN, Japan) of which Professor Gough is a long time member.
As of its release, Mogrify has been made available online for other researchers and scientists in hopes of rapidly advancing the field of study.