A Melbourne scientist is harvesting the memory found in reprogrammed adult cells to develop cell therapy techniques that have the potential to cure a number of diseases.
Jose Polo, of Monash University, has found that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells don’t lose all their memory after reprogramming, flagging the possibility that a better understanding of these stem cells will aid regenerative medicine.
“Basically an iPS cell derived from muscle is more likely to reprogram back into muscle cells, while iPS cells derived from skin will generate skin cells,” says Jose. “And this could influence what type of iPS cell you might choose to generate a specific cell type.”
Embryonic stem cells, which can become almost any type of cell in the body, are known as pluripotent. They hold remarkable potential for regenerative medicine and drug development.
Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state, and provide an alternative to the controversial use of embryonic cells in medicine.
It is clear that epigenetic modification—heritable changes in gene activity caused by changes outside the DNA sequence— is fundamental to both cell differentiation and cell reprogramming.
Jose has shown that iPS cells retain an epigenetic memory of their donor cells. Now his research group is exploring this memory to work out how to derive a variety of adult cells in the lab.
Jose is based at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University, and in 2013 won a Victorian Tall Poppy Science Award and a Sylvia and Charles Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship for his research.