Dr George Daley and his colleagues at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute used a new technique, which will allow researchers to watch 10 genetic disorders develop in a lab dish and thus could help speed up efforts to find treatments for some of the most confounding ailments.
The work was reported online in the journal Cell, and the researchers said they planned to make the cell lines available to other scientists.
Scientists used ordinary skin cells and bone marrow from people with a variety of diseases, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Down’s syndrome to produce the stem cells.
The new technique reprogrammes cells, giving them the chameleon-like qualities of embryonic stem cells, which can morph into all kinds of tissue, such as heart, nerve and brain. As with embryonic stem cells, the hope is to speed up medical research.
Research teams in Wisconsin and Japan were the first to report last November that they had reprogrammed skin cells, and that the cells had behaved like stem cells in a series of lab tests.
Just last week, another Harvard team of scientists said they reprogrammed skin cells from two elderly patients with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and grew them into nerve cells.