Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute announced Tuesday they found new compounds that can be used to re-program adult cells into pluripotent stem cells, which can then be developed into any cell type.
The compounds BIX and BayK, when used together, effectively re-program the cells, according to a study published in the journal "Cell Stem Cell."
BIX inhibits enzymes involved in regulating gene expression. BayK activates receptors for calcium. Together, they can replace the SOX2 gene, which plays a critical role in regulating embryonic stem cells, according to Sheng Ding of TSRI
The use of embryonic stem cells in medical research has been a controversial political issue and has led scientists to find ways to use plentiful general cells, called fibroblasts, for the same purposes.
The study "leads us one step closer to the ultimate reprogramming of general cells to pluripotent cells in a completely chemically defined manner without genetic manipulation,'' Ding said. "In conjunction with our earlier published studies, it offers definitive proof that we can make cell reprogramming technology much more practical than it has been.''
The approach used to discover the effective compounds could lead to others that also work and, eventually, new therapies for illnesses, he said.
Since BayK cannot work alone, needing BIX, cells already in the process of being re-programmed because of injury or some other reason might be more susceptible to it, the scientist said.
"Needless to say, more work needs to be done to understand the precise mechanism by which BayK affects the reprogramming process,'' Ding said.
BayK is the first molecule of its type to be effective in reprogramming, he said.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine i Munster, Germany, contributed to the study.