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Researchers use stem cells to heal liver disease
New successes in stem cell therapy. Researchers have been able to cure liver disease in mice with the help of so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Since the induced pluripotent stem cells are obtained by reprogramming normal body cells, they are significantly less controversial than the embryonic stem cells.
Scientists from the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster have cured a genetically caused metabolic disorder in mice with the help of the induced pluripotent stem cells. They used the iPS obtained from animal skin cells, corrected a genetic defect and were then able to use the modified iPS to cure liver disease, explained the group leader at the Institute for Cell and Molecular Pathology at the MHH and the group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine, Dr . Tobias Cantz, in the current issue of the journal "PLoS Biology". The stem cell researcher emphasized that it was possible for the first time to cure a living organism with genetically repaired iPS from a disease.
Liver disease in mice cured with iPS The researchers “reprogrammed skin cells from liver-sick mice into iPS and then corrected the genetic defect that was the cause of the liver disease,” write Dr. Cantz and colleagues. With the help of the special method of tetraploid embryo complementation, the gene-corrected iPS could be used to produce completely healthy mice. “The animals are healthy; their lifespan has not been shortened either, ”stressed the stem cell researchers. According to Dr. Cantz has provided evidence that iPS can be genetically engineered to address the root cause of genetic diseases and retain pluripotent properties. These pluripotent properties, i.e. the ability to transform into all body cells, have so far been primarily attributed to the embryonic stem cells and have often been questioned in the iPS. But now it was first possible to correct a genetic defect in live animals and at the same time to preserve the pluripotent properties of the iPS, explained Dr. Cantz.
Ethical concerns about embryonic stem cells Overall, stem cell research is extremely controversial for various reasons. When it comes to embryonic stem cells, the ethical aspects in particular are often cause for criticism. Because the destruction of early human embryos is necessary to obtain the cells. In the background of the conflict there is also the question of a possible cultivation of embryos in the laboratory (cloning) to obtain the stem cells, which advocates of embryonic stem cell research often describe as a desirable option. Opponents and advocates of stem cell research in Germany are also arguing about when an embryo as a human life falls under the protection of Art. 1 of the Basic Law ("Human dignity is inviolable."). In the case of iPS, however, such discussions about possible ethical concerns are of minor importance.
Controversy over genetic changes in pluripotent stem cells However, controversy over possible health effects from pluripotent stem cells (embryonic and induced) has intensified over the course of the year, according to US scientists from the University of California, the San Diego School of Medicine and the Scripps Research Institute have demonstrated severe genetic changes in pluripotent stem cell lines. While it is not fully understood what effect these genome aberrations can have on health, the results of the US researchers were generally seen as a major setback for stem cell research. For example, the stem cell researcher Prof. Hans Schöler from the Max Planck Institute in Münster, as part of the current "PLoS Biology" publication, also tried to take into account the critical discussions of the past months and emphasized: "The cells are as stable as embryonic ones Stem cells and are suitable for combined cell and gene therapy. ”However, the fact that the artificially obtained embryonic stem cells could also be unstable is not taken into account in the current article. (fp)
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