For the first time, scientists have been able to transform ordinary skin cells into stem cells that could be used to repair or regrow any part of the body.
At the University of Helsinki and the Karolinska Institute, researchers found a way to simplify the process of using CRISPR gene-editing technology to harvest the skin cells without introducing foreign genes into the skin. They also improved the conversion by finding a way to turn on a crucial gene that guides the earliest steps in the development of human embryos.
The technique could be used to simplify the conversion of other types of tissue – liver, bone, or tendon, for example – into these master or “pluripotent” stem cells.
In the future, this new method could be used to “biobank” a small amount of skin from a child to create new, individually compatible tissues or organs later in life when parts of the body need to be repaired or replaced.