Globs of human fat removed during liposuction conceal versatile cells that are more quickly and easily coaxed to become induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, than are the skin cells most often used by researchers, according to a new study from Stanford’s School of Medicine.“We’ve identified a great natural resource,” said Stanford surgery professor and co-author of the research, Michael Longaker, MD, who has called the readily available liposuction leftovers “liquid gold.” Reprogramming adult cells to function like embryonic stem cells is one way researchers hope to create patient-specific cell lines to regenerate tissue or to study specific diseases in the laboratory. “Thirty to 40 percent of adults in this country are obese,” agreed cardiologist Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, the paper’s senior author. “Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently. Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away.”
My first reaction on reading this article was a bit, well, ‘ewwww’.
But on reflection, one realises that the cells can be converted without the need for mouse-derived “feeder cells” therefore making them an ideal starting material for human therapies. Feeder cells are often used when growing human skin cells outside the body, but when mice are used cross-species contamination could make them unsuitable for human use. This approach of harvesting human iPS cells gets round that tricky issue.
Don’t know about you, but I’m looking to reading more about the published findings. Watch this space!