The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced scientists have discovered a new method for reprogramming and obtaining induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), or stem cells derived from adult cells.
The latest research by stem-cell biologist Pei Duanqing and his team revealed autophagy, a process in generating iPS, does not play a vital role in reprogramming. Previously, it was believed it did.
Autophagy, or self-cannibalization, refers to a process of cells discarding or degrading cellular components under certain conditions to prevent further damage.
It is not only unnecessary for the process, but may hold back it, according to the finding.
"Cells that did not undergo the process of autophagy had higher efficiency of reprogramming, and iPS cells generated without the autophagy also have their normal pluripotent feature," Pei said.
Instead, they discovered that reprogramming is the inhibition of a substance called "mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1)."
Like embryonic stem cells, iPS stem cells can develop into any cell in the human body.
Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University, won a Nobel Prize in physiology for developing an iPS cell harvesting technique that allows stem cells to be obtained from adult tissue instead of from embryos in 2012, thus avoiding the ethical and legal barriers.
The scientists believe their findings can help people understand how cell reprogramming affects patients of metabolic diseases such as diabetes or cancer, according to a statement of the CAS.
The latest study was published by on Nature Cell Biology on May 18.
(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2015)