Haruko Obokata and colleagues at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology have created embryonic stem cells from a single blood cell by putting white blood cells from a baby mouse in a mild acid solution. Eventually a few stem cells emerge that can turn into any other cell in the body including skin, heart, liver or neurons.
Scientists have long searched for ways to make human embryonic stem cells that did not destroy human embryos. These cells hold great potential for treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease and diabetes.
Obokata put the blood cells in a mild acid for about 30 minutes. The pH of the solution was about 5.7. A few days later, the cells stopped acting like blood and started behaving like stem cells. When the researchers injected the cells into a mouse embryo, the cells acted just like other stem cells: They created all the organs needed for an adult mouse. The team named the cells stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP.
This breakthrough could enable scientists to create stem cells from any person, thus controlling genetic similarity, and use them to repair nerve injuries.