Throughout the day Yamanaka’s prize-winning idea for reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells was referred to as game changing for all of biology. Those induced Pluripotent Stem cells, or iPS cells, were lauded as valuable research tools today and revolutionary therapies in the not too distant future.
Mahendra Rao, director of the NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine, likened iPS technology to PCR, polymerase chain reaction, a chemical trick invented 30 years ago that lets scientist amplify any desired set of genes for study. This empowered countless opportunities to ask questions about the function of genes. He said biology is viewed as pre-PCR and post-PCR, and he added that iPS is causing a similar paradigm shift. In particular he noted the opportunity to create personalized cells that can have their genes edited or corrected, if they have an inherited error.
Sandy Williams, the president of the Gladstone Institutes, ran through a scenario for how iPS cells can save society billions of dollars. He suggested that the ability to make iPS cells — and in turn nerve cells — from patients with Alzheimer’s Disease will provide such a valuable platform for drug screening that finding a drug to treat the dementia was inevitable. If such a drug was just 50 percent effective, he said it would save the U.S. $540 billion a year in costs associated with the disease by 2050.
Shortly after Sandy spoke, Nancy Stagliano, CEO of biotech company iPierian, provided strong support for his premise. She said that within 12 months the company expects to begin a clinical trail with an antibody therapy identified with an Alzheimer’s patient’s iPS cells.
All of CIRM’s grants can be sorted by the type of cell used and you can read about CIRM grants using iPS cells here.
|Leonore and Leonard Herzenberg: courtesy Stanford Medical School|