News from the Australian Stem Cell Centre

Science names ?Reprogramming Cells? its 2008 Breakthrough of the Year

13 January 2009

Every December, prestigious scientific journal Science reflects on the year, awarding key scientific advances, naming the biggest breakthroughs of the year and making predictions for the year ahead. On the 19 December 2008, Reprogramming Cells was named Breakthrough of the Year.

The term reprogramming is often used to refer to techniques developed by scientists to change the developmental potential or fate of a cell. The objective of reprogramming is to take a defined or specialised cell from the body (adult or somatic cell), such as a skin cell, and convert it to more primitive stem cell which would be capable of developing into another cell type such as a heart or blood cell. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells. Reprogramming can also be used to describe the direct conversion of one type of specialised cell to another type of specialised cell.

The Science article celebrates the significant steps forward this field took in 2008 when two groups reported making disease specific iPS lines for eleven difference diseases including Parkinson?s disease and juvenile diabetes. For many years scientists have been seeking ways to make long living cell lines from patients suffering from hard to study diseases as cells taken directly from patients do not usually survive in the laboratory for long periods.

iPS cells were first created in 2006 in a mouse model by scientists in Japan. In 2007 iPS cells were created from human cells, which were named the runner up breakthrough of the year in 2007.

The full Science article and a short video on the topic can be viewed on the Science website.

The ASCC is pursuing research into iPS cells in its Melbourne and Brisbane laboratories assisted by grants from the Victorian and Queensland state governments.