Ann Conkle
Mar 22, 2012

Somatic stem cells obtained from skin cells for first time

Scientists have produced somatic stem cells from fully differentiated somatic cells. Stem cell researcher Hans Schöler and his team took skin cells from mice and, using a unique combination of growth factors and culturing conditions, managed to induce the cells' differentiation into neuronal stem cells. "Our research shows that reprogramming somatic cells does not require passing through a pluripotent stage," explains Schöler. "Thanks to this new approach, tissue regeneration is becoming a more streamlined -- and safer -- process." Given the proper cues, pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into any type of bodily cell, but their pluripotency also brings disadvantages. Under the wrong conditions, they may form a tumor rather than regenerate an organ. On the other hand, Schöler's somatic stem cells are only multipotent -- they cannot give rise to all cell types but merely to a select subset of them, which means they may be safer for therapeutic use.