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Scientists found a way to reprogram cells faster, skipping the stage of stem cells

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Posted December 1, 2017

Lab testing and experiments require subjects. At the beginning of the research those typically are cells. However, cell cultures do not last very long in the lab and it becomes a technical difficulty, sometimes slowing down the progress of the research. Now scientists from the University of Edinburgh have made a discovery that will speed up the process of production of cells in the lab.

Laboratories use cell samples every day – shortage of samples means that studies and testing takes longer. Image credit: kaibara87 via Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

This discovery is just two molecules, called SMAD2 and SMAD3. Scientists found that they are very important in the process of reprogramming of cells. This allows one type of cells to become another type of cells. Reprogramming is used in the labs all over the world extensively, but is has never been a very efficient process. Now scientists are hoping that the discovery of these two molecules, which are able to enhance the efficiency of converting mature cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, will speed up the production of cells for lab testing. This is important for experiments with new drugs that can be used to treat such diseases as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

Stem cells can become any other type of cell in the body. However, SMAD2 and SMAD3 can help skipping this step – they can make cell transform into a new type without becoming a stem cell first. For example, a skin cell can become a brain cell. Currently this transformation requires 50 days but this new discovery can cut this time in half. Professor Keisuke Kaji, one of the authors of the study, said: “We have shown it is possible to boost reprogramming of diverse cell types using a single molecule. We hope this will stimulate further research to find other molecules that could have a similar – or even better – effect”.

This discovery is incredibly important. Cells are everything in a lab. They are sued to research diseases, test new medicine’s effectiveness or trying to find and pinpoint adverse side effects. However, when identical samples of cells are lacking, the work is slowing down. Some of these cells are very hard or even impossible to take from the patients and so they must be produced in the lab. Cutting the period of reprogramming in half is an incredible achievement, which can lead to new faster lad studies.

Of course, even those 25 days is not the limit. Scientists will continue looking into this method and maybe the time can be even shorter.

Source: University of Edinburgh

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