Monday, April 5, 2010

The Emergence of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs): Nature Methods’ “Method of the Year 2009”

Most of us are quite familiar now with the fascinating work that has rapidly progressed since the pivotal work published by Shinya Yamanka proving decisively that somatic cells can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent state(1). The work provided a reproducible, relatively simple way to bring this technology to a variety of labs working on a wide range of research endeavors including neurological injury and disease, diabetes and cardiac disorders. Although one might envision induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) repairing damaged or diseased tissue or organs, the majority of current research is aimed at providing cells of either diseased-cell lineage or the tools to produce them. By focusing on these two fundamental areas, researchers hope to provide a means to help better understand human disease and screen for potential drug candidates(2). To take iPSCs a step further, recent work has been focused on the ability to provide relevant differentiated cells, such as cardiomyocytes, for screening of toxicological drug effects(3).

Several concerns have surfaced as iPSCs become better characterized. First, not all iPSCs are created equally; it has been acknowledged that three different colonies representing different levels of reprogramming can occur, only one of which represents a true iPSC(4). Second, iPSCs typically are most representative of fetal cells as opposed to adult somatic cells(5). Adult somatic cells are known to have undergone epigenetic transformations during differentiation as well as having accumulated genetic damage over their lifetime. Therefore, the age differential between somatic cells of the same lineage used during the reprogramming process must also be considered.

Moving forward, significant resources will likely be directed toward development of differentiated cell and iPSC characterization methods. One can imagine a set of validated markers being multiplexed in a standard microplate format allowing verification and validation of cell reprogramming.

If you are working in this area, what features of BioTek Instruments, INC. current instrumentation or future features would help your work progress?


1 Yamanake, S. Nature 460, 49-52 (2009).
2 Lee, G. et al. nature 461, 402-406 (2009).
3 Yu, J. et al. Science 324, 797-801 (2009).
4Chan, L. et al. Na. Biotechnol. 27, 1033-37 (2009).
5 Baker, M. Nature Methods 7, 16-19 (2010).

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