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Process Created for Stem Cells from Routine Blood Samples

Blood test (NIH)

(National Institutes of Health)

Medical researchers at University of Cambridge in the U.K. developed a process to extract induced pluripotent stem cells from a routine blood sample. The team led by Cambridge’s Amer Rana published its findings yesterday online in the journal Stem Cells: Translational Medicine.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to resemble embryonic stem cells by expressing genes and other properties of embryonic stem cells, including the ability to differentiate into other tissue or organ cells in the body. Up to now, producing induced pluripotent stem cells required cells taken from skin or other tissue samples that needed a biopsy or other surgery.

Rana and colleagues drew patients’ blood in the lab and isolated what are known as late-outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells to turn into induced pluripotent stem cells. The researchers were able to generate the late-outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells from frozen as well as fresh samples, with genomic characteristics similar to the donor samples.

The Cambridge team then reprogrammed the intermediate stage cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, and compared the blood-derived stem cells to stem cells generated from skin tissue. The results show more than 80 percent of the induced pluripotent stem cells did not develop structural variations in the DNA during the reprogramming process, when matched to the parent late-outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells.

“Tissue biopsies are undesirable, particularly for children and the elderly,” says Rana, “whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.” Rana adds the ability to freeze and store blood cells and turn them into stem cells later on, “will have tremendous practical value, prolonging the ‘use by date’ of patient samples.”

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