Stem cells from skin offer vital clues to diseases

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London, April 8 : Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have created stem cells from skin taken from patients with seven different diseases, thus raising hopes for potential new treatments. The technique of making patients' skin cells to act as stem cells will allow researchers to gain insights into the cause of illnesses including Type 1 diabetes, Down's syndrome and Huntington's disease.

Last year, scientists in Japan and America developed induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells, which can apparently transform into any of the 200 or so different cells found in the body.

Now, Dr Willy Lensch and colleagues at the Harvard Medical School have used this technique to create IPS cell lines from seven diseases.

"This will help us to understand the environmental causes that push these undefined cells to become diseases," the Telegraph quoted Dr Lensch, as saying.

"We can look at what is happening to the hormones, the genes, the growth factors, and then compare that to cells that don't have the mutations, and learn new things," he added.

Scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts also reported that they had seen improvements in rodents with Parkinson's disease using reprogrammed IPS cells.

Lead author of the study, Rudolf Jaenisch said: "This experiment shows that in-vitro reprogrammed cells can in principle be used to treat Parkinson's disease."

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