Each month CIRM President Alan Trounson gives his perspective on recently published papers he thinks will be valuable in moving the field of stem cell research forward. This month’s report, along with an archive of past reports, is available on the CIRM website.
This month’s lead story garnered considerable media attention. A team at the New York Stem Cell Foundation succeeded in creating embryonic stem cell lines through nuclear transfer, sometimes called cloning. The actual science of what the group did has already been covered in this blog (read the blog entry here). Now, I am suggesting that, because the trick they used to get the cloning to work resulted in cells with three sets of chromosomes, the follow-on research that tries to understand why their method worked may produce much more useful data than the original breakthrough. I look forward to reading those next papers.
October also produced another salvo in the back and forth over how useful iPS cells— the stem cells that result from reprograming adult cells—really are. Early this year, a few papers appeared suggesting iPS cells had considerably more genetic defects than their embryonic counterparts. Now a team at Scripps and University of Virginia using a somewhat different reprogramming technique, and a 30-fold better method of gene analysis, found almost no gene defects attributable to the reprogramming. The last chapter in this saga is far from being written.
At a time when it seems like teams announce the full gene sequences of another animal or bacteria weekly, saying that a paper on gene sequencing is important to our field may appear to be a stretch. However, when BioTime announced that they had sequenced five of their clinical grade embryonic cell lines, it did allow us to tick the box on an important milestone for our field. Many observers believe the FDA may start to demand some sort of evidence of the genetic integrity of cell lines that are going into clinical trials. So, having these lines available could indeed accelerate our pace to the clinic.
I hope you find my full report on this month's science picks interesting.
- Alan Trounson