Skin cells as stem cells

January 16, 2012 3:07:47 PM PST
Scientists say new research shows that stem cells may be created using your own skin cells.Elmer Goodman suffers from heart disease.

"One artery was completely blocked," he said.

John Miksa is paralyzed.

"It was just like somebody took a tarp from the bottom of my neck and just peeled it back and took all the feeling from me," he said.

Erwin Velbis is a stroke survivor who believes "I was going to be drooling on a bib, in a wheelchair for the rest of my life."

The answer to heal them all may be found in a lab.

Deepak Srivastava, an MD at Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease says there has been a major breakthrough.

Dr. Deepak Srivastava and Dr. Sheng Ding are two of the many minds at Gladstone Institute using not only adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells, but your own skin cells to repair bodies from the inside out.

"It means in the future, one might be able to create new heart cells, new lung cells, new spinal cord cells, starting with your own cells from your skin," Dr. Srivastava said.

The process involves taking adult skin cells and turning them into beating heart cells; it is known as "Direct Reprogramming."

"We've been able to create a beating heart cells that used to be on someone's skin, which is really like science fiction," Dr. Srivastava said.

The same approach could be used to repair spinal cord injuries and practically any other part of the body.

"We've been working on new methods that can convert cells from the skin to brain cells," Sheng Ding, a PhD Gladstone Institute, said.

Dr. Ding has transformed the adult skin cells into neurons that are capable of transmitting brain signals. They hope this could reverse the effects of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and strokes.

"It's the ultimate in personalized medicine," Dr. Srivastava said.

Doctors say because they're using a patient's own skin cells, there's little to no chance of rejection. These skin cells could also be used to test new drugs and each patient's possible response to those drugs, allowing doctors to better personalize medicine.

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