Skin cells used to create cancer-fighting stem cells

1 March 2016

Scientists have successfully converted skin cells into stem cells with the ability to fight cancer for the first time.

A team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been able to develop a new personalised treatment for glioblastoma, a type of brain tumour, based on a patient's own skin cells.

These fibroblast cells, which produce collagen and connective tissue in normal circumstances, were reprogrammed to become induced neural stem cells with an innate ability to home in on and kill remaining cancer cells, while also potentially producing a tumour-killing protein.

A test involving mice showed the new stem cell therapy was able to increase survival time by between 160 and 220 per cent. Based on this success, human studies of the treatment approach will be conducted soon.

Study leader Dr Shawn Hingtgen, an assistant professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, said: "Our work represents the newest evolution of the stem cell technology that won the Nobel Prize in 2012 ... This is the first time this direct reprogramming technology has been used to treat cancer."

Posted by Philip Briggs

 


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