New Cell Biology Findings May Improve Safety and Performance of Reprogrammed Cells

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iPS cell chartRegenerative medicine seems to be comprised of equal parts promise and challenge. But cell biology researchers at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College might have made a discovery that has the potential to improve both the performance and, even more importantly, the safety of reprogrammed cells.

The early results of the researchers’ study point to an enzyme, known as activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) which appears to aid in the process that changes an adult human cell into an induced pluriponent stem cell, or iPS cell. Those same iPS cells can then be developed into literally any type of cell needed to restore and repair damaged tissue or organs. However, recent news has brought up questions regarding the safety of AID and its use in the creation of iPS cells.

And the use of AID to reprogram cells is still a hotly contested issue. The most pressing dispute at the onset of the study was whether or not AID was a requirement when it comes to creating iPS cells. The results of the study make this discussion more relevant. While the AID enzyme made reprogramming iPS cells more efficient, it wasn’t a necessity. The next step will be testing the reprogramming process without the use of AID at all.

The concern over the AID enzyme comes from news that it can cause genetic mutations that can lead to certain cancers. The most well-known role of the activation-induced cytidine deaminase enzyme is as regulator of antibody diversity in B cells. In order to create the various forms of antibodies that it does, AID is often forced to mutate genes. The problem is that the mutation process doesn’t always go smoothly and can result in a form of lymphoma.

Now that cell biologists know it’s possible to test reprogramming without the use of AID, potentially eliminating that possibility – it might be promising to make the process of regenerative medicine safer and more productive.

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