What is genetic reprogramming

Reprogramming cells

Reprogramming cells

Both a Japanese and an American research group published in November 2007, independently of one another, the successful reprogramming of human skin and connective tissue cells into stem cells. In reprogramming, specific genetic material is introduced into somatic cells so that they have the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. This includes, for example, the ability to differentiate into certain cell or tissue types under suitable conditions. Stem cells obtained in this way are called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS). In the long term, it is hoped that such procedures will allow stem cells to be obtained without having to destroy embryos.

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Figure 6: Schematic representation of a cell reprogramming (image used with kind permission of the stem cell network.NRW).

Takahashi, Kazutoshi / Tanabe, Koji / Ohnuki, Mari / Narita, Megumi / Ichisaka, Tomoko / Tomoda, Kiichiro / Yamanaka, Shinya (2007): Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors. In: Cell 131 (4). Online version (English)

Yu, Junying / Vodyanik, Maxim A. / Smuga-Otto, Kim / Antosiewicz-Bourget, Jessica / Frane, Jennifer L. / Tian, ​​Shulan / Nie, Jeff / Jonsdottir, Gudrun A. / Ruotti, Victor / Stewart, Ron / Slukvin, Igor I. / Thomson, James A. (2007): Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells. In: Science 318, 1917-1920. Online version (English)

In January 2014, a study by the Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata, published in the journal Nature, attracted worldwide attention. She described that she had converted differentiated cells back into stem cells using a simple process using citric acid and pressure. However, the results could not be reproduced and the study has since been withdrawn by the institute. The credibility of the publication is made even more difficult by the fact that data and images have apparently been manipulated for it.

For the original text of the study, see:

Obokata, Haruko / Wakayama, Teruhiko / Sasai, Yoshiki / Kojima, Koji / Vacanti, Martin P. / Niwa, Hitoshi / Yamato, Masayuki / Vacanti, Charles A. (2014): Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency. In: Nature 505, 641-647. Online version (English)

For the criticism and classification of the study by various research teams, see here:

Los Angeles, Alejandro / Ferrari, Francesco / Fujiwara, Yuko / Mathieu, Ronald / Lee, Soohyun / Lee, Semin / Tu, Ho-Chou / Ross, Samantha / Chou, Stephanie / Nguyen, Minh / Wu, Zhaoting / Theunissen, Thorold W. / Powell, Benjamin E. / Imsoonthornruksa, Sumeth / Chen, Jiekai / Borkent, Marti / Krupalnik, Vladislav / Lujan, Ernesto / Wernig, Marius / Hanna, Jacob H. / Hochedlinger, Konrad / Pei, Duanging / Jaenisch, Rudolf / Deng, Hongkui / Orkin, Stuart H. / Park, Peter J. / Daley, George G. 2015): Failure to replicate the STAP cell phenomenon. In: Nature 525, E6-E9. Online version (English)


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