As our readers are well aware, in 2006 Jun Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka perfected a technique known as cellular reprogramming, which produces undifferentiated cells (iPS cells) from differentiated adult cells. These cells are similar to the embryonic cells. From these iPS cells we can derive cells for a wide variety of tissues, a useful procedure which will doubtless be applicable to human clinical applications in the near future, avoiding the use of embryonic stem cells –a technique which gives rise to objective medical and ethical issues.
Yet the greatest obstacle in the use of these cells in clinical applications is the technique’s low efficiency, which is around 1%.
But this problem is well on its way to being solved, bringing the use of iPS in human clinical applications.
Jacob Hanna’s research team, from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, published an article in Nature (502; 65-70, 2013) which describes how this technique has been improved to enhance the efficiency of the formation of iPS cells, which they have raised to nearly 100%, a great leap forward in the real use of this method in the future.
Although it would be impossible to describe in detail all the technical steps involved in the procedure, cellular reprogramming mainly involves the activation of several reprogramming genes, namely, Oct, Sox 2, Klf 4 and Myc. Their function is then inhibited by a repressor gene known as Mbd3. The Israeli research team has been able render Mbd3 unusable, which has increased cellular reprogramming to nearly 100%. As mentioned above, this represents a decisive step towards the use of iPS cells in human clinical applications.