In a major breakthrough, the scientists at the in Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch’s lab discovered that adult cells of mice created from genetically reprogrammed cells–so-called induced pluripotent stem (IPS) stem cells–can be triggered via drug to enter an embryonic-stem-cell-like state, without the need for further genetic alteration. The research was reported in the Nature Biotechnology.

The team of the researchers was led by Christopher Lengner. In the course of the study, Lengner and other researchers have made mice created in part from the embryonic-stem-cell-like cells known as IPS cells. The IPS cells were created by reprogramming adult skin cells using lentiviruses to randomly insert four genes (Oct4, Sox2, c-Myc and Klf4) into the cells’ DNA. The IPS cells also were modified to switch on these four genes when a drug trigger, doxycycline, is added to the cells. Wernig and Lengner then took cells from each IPS mouse and introduced the doxycycline trigger, thereby changing the adult mouse cells into IPS cells.

The technique allows researchers to create large numbers of genetically identical IPS cells. The method also increases the reprogramming efficiency from one in a thousand cells to one in twenty.

The large numbers of IPS cells that can be created by this method can aid experiments requiring millions of identical cells for reprogramming, such as large-scale chemical library screening assays.

Jaenisch, a researcher of the study said,

“In experiments, the technique will eliminate many of the reprogramming process’s unpredictable variables and simplify enormously the research on the reprogramming mechanism and the screening for virus replacements.”

Source: Science Daily