Ten years ago, Dr. Yamanaka and Dr. Takahashi published a manuscript where they explained how he obtained stem cells from mouse skin cells. This kind of stem cells were called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). For that, Yamanaka was awarded years after with the Novel Prize in Medicine.
In the ten years that have passed since, iPSC technology has provided fundamental insights into our understanding of cell fate, mammalian development, and human disease. It has also spurred renewed interest in direct reprogramming across lineages, and this area too has flourished. Progress in understanding the biology of iPSCs and reprogramming has moved in parallel with work on clinical translation to apply the insights obtained, and the first iPSC-based clinical trials are already underway. However, we’re still in the early days of stem cell research. Scientists need more time and resources to conduct preclinical research to understand how these stem cells can be best used to treat certain diseases.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are cells that have been engineered in the lab by converting tissue-specific cells, such as skin cells, into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells (hESC). IPS cells are critical tools to help scientists learn more about normal development and disease onset and progression, and they are also useful for developing and testing new drugs and therapies.
While iPS cells share many of the same characteristics of embryonic stem cells, including the ability to give rise to all the cell types in the body, they aren’t exactly the same. Scientists are exploring what these differences are and what they mean. For one thing, the first iPS cells were produced by using viruses to insert extra copies of genes into tissue-specific cells. Researchers are experimenting with many alternative ways to create iPS cells so that they can ultimately be used as a source of cells or tissues for medical treatments.
In 2006, when Dr. Yamanaka announced the discovery of mouse iPSCs in a symposium in Granada, most of the researchers there could not believe it. However, researchers at the CMR[B] were sure that if that could be true in humans too, would be a great achievement that would change the whole fate of the field of stem cell research. Thus, the CMR[B] began to focus on the generation of human iPSC. About 2 years after, the CMR[B] was the first research center in Europe to create them.
Since then, the scientific community has progressed more than expected. New & safe reprogramming methods have been found, the transdifferentiation has been developed (fast & efficient direct reprogramming between different somatic cells) and many different scientific applications have been found for them in addition to regenerative medicine.
Concerning regenerative medicine, the director of the CMR[B] Ángel Raya, is convinced that in a few years, the translation to clinics will be very close. The CMR[B] team, in collaboration with other national and international institutions, is working hard every day to bring this research to patients.