A revolutionary technique to create pluripotent stem cells from somatic cells has greatly shifted the moral concerns for using pluripotent stem cells. In the past, the most potent cell of choice was an embryonic stem cell. These cells were derived from the inner cell mass within a developing embryo. Extracting these cells meant destroying the embryo, which harbors moral implications.
In today’s labs many scientists are able to use a viral delivery system to deliver a combination of pluripotent transcription factors. These factors (typically OCT4, Nanog, KLF4, c-MYC and SOX2) are able to integrate into a somatic cell’s DNA and revert it back into a pluripotent state. These cells are known as the induced pluripotent cells (iPS) and are being experimented on for future downstream applications.
The Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cell was an innovative step forward in stem cell biology. The first iPS cells were created using a Lenti virus system that allowed the genetic alteration of somatic cells. The creation of iPS cells had a low efficiency and was slow to grow in culture (30 to 40 days). Since the iPS cell was made with a virus it was very difficult to translate into clinical medicine. In today’s research labs, the goal of scientists is to avoid using the virus as the genetic delivery vehicle.
Scientists at PGB have been working on a non-viral iPS cell method that has seen some proof of concepts be successful. The non-viral delivery of selected proteins and DNAs into the nucleus is based on a peptide delivery system and allows simultaneous delivery of 5 transcription factors. The main goal of using no viruses possibly brands these cells as clinically more acceptable due to less genetic alteration.