Scientists discover a new, simpler way to make stem cells. "To transform mature cells into powerful stem cells that are a biological blank slate, the team simply bathed them in an acid bath for half an hour. The technique appears to be far easier and faster than current methods for creating these cells, which scientists are racing to develop into therapies for a range of diseases."
"The new work reveals a potentially cheap, fast, and simple avenue to create the powerful cells—by exposing mature cells to environmental stress instead of having to manipulate the genes inside the cell’s nucleus. If the finding is replicated by other scientists, it also promises to yield fresh insights into the behavior of cells, and demonstrates that important scientific advances often emerge from unexpected areas of inquiry."
"Ultimately, the team found that the environmental stress was producing the stem cells. The mechanism is not fully understood, but scientists saw telling changes in the pattern of molecules that attach to DNA and determine which genes are active. Further work showed that other types of stress, such as growing the cells in low oxygen or bathing them in a solution that is more acidic than milk but less than juice, transformed a portion of the cells into STAP cells—short for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. STAP cells had genetic markers that were signatures of stem cells, but they weren’t quite the same as true stem cells found in embryos. They didn’t live as long, and they couldn’t multiply indefinitely. But the researchers found that if they put the STAP cells in lab dishes with the right growth medium—a nutrient gel that is used to help embryonic stem cells multiply—the STAP stem cells became just like embryonic stem cells."