Researchers at the University of Helsinki have developed a new, faster and more reliable technique for returning human cells to a stem cell state. Pluripotent stem cells are a key tool in biomedicine for modeling various diseases and developing new treatments.
A few years ago, a collaborative study conducted at the University of Helsinki (CRISPRa) successfully developed an activated gene-editing technology that made it possible to convert adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. What makes the CRISPRa technology exceptional is that the process can be performed by activating the genes of cells without altering the cell genome. This process produces stem cells very similar to early embryonic cells.
This reversion of differentiated cells backward in their development into pluripotent stem cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), is known as cellular reprogramming. iPS cells can specialize like all types of cells and tissues found in our bodies, which is why they are rapidly transforming and advancing biomedical research.
Using the improved CRISPRa technology developed by the University of Helsinki researchers, reprogramming can be controlled to a much higher degree than before. This results in a highly reliable reprogramming of human cells into high-quality pluripotent stem cells.
“The improved CRISPRa technology accelerates the cellular reprogramming process and significantly improves the accuracy and reliability of reprogramming,” says university researcher Ras Trukovich.
Reprogramming performed with an earlier version of this technique also resulted in the formation of alternate cell types and aberrant iPS cells. New and improved technology reduces this discrepancy.
“Using this improved technology, almost all of the reprogrammed cells were high-quality iPS cells,” Trukovitch notes with pleasure.
The research infrastructure supports further research and discovery of practical applications
The reliable production of high-quality iPS cells allows them to be used with increased efficiency in biomedical applications.
“This technology makes it possible to produce pluripotent stem cells with a higher capacity than previous technologies,” Trukovich notes.
The researchers believe there will be many practical applications for the cellular programming technique they have developed. iPS cells are an invaluable tool, among others, in modeling neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and various eye diseases, as well as in developing treatments for them.
“In Finland, large-scale genome studies and biobank infrastructure provide unique opportunities for using iPS cells in biomedical research,” says Professor Timo Otonkoski.
Rapid correction of inherited genetic modifications
Joonas Sokka et al, CRISPR activation enables high-resolution reprogramming in human pluripotent stem cells, Stem Cell Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.stemcr.2021.12.017
Presented by the University of Helsinki
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