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A*STAR scientists create stem cells from drop of blood

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Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood.

SINGAPORE: Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood.

The new technique could potentially boost the number and diversity of donors, and facilitate the setting up of large-scale hiPSC banks, said the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in a news release on Thursday.

Current sample collection for reprogramming into human induced pluripotent stem cells include invasive methods, such as collecting cells from the bone marrow or skin, which may put off potential donors.

Although the stem cells may also be generated from blood cells, a large amount of blood is usually required.

But scientists at IMCB showed for the first time that single-drop volumes of blood are sufficient for reprogramming into human induced pluripotent stem cells.

As those cells show properties remarkably similar to human embryonic stem cells, they are invaluable for basic research, drug discovery and cell therapy.

The finger-prick technique is the world's first to use only a drop of finger-pricked blood to yield hiPSCs with high efficiency.

The work is published online in the Stem Cell Translational Medicine journal.

Lead scientist for the finger-prick hiPSC technique Dr Jonathan Loh Yuin Han said, "Our finger-prick technique, in fact, utilised less than a drop of finger-pricked blood. The remaining blood could even be used for DNA sequencing and other blood tests."

Senior consultant at the National Heart Centre Singapore and co-author of the paper, Dr Stuart Alexander Cook, said, "We were able to differentiate the hiPSCs reprogrammed from Jonathan's finger-prick technique, into functional heart cells."

The accessibility of the new technique is further enhanced with a DIY sample collection approach.

Donors may collect their own finger-pricked blood, which they can then store and send to a laboratory for reprogramming.

IMCB executive director Professor Hong Wanjin said, "Research on hiPSCs is now highly sought-after, given its potential to be used as a model for studying human diseases and for regenerative medicine."

A*STAR said a patent has been filed for the innovation. 

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