Patient's own blood used to create stem cells in breakthrough that could treat a whole range of diseasesThe cells are building blocks that allow the body to produce new cells and repair tissuesScientists believe blood could be the easiest and safest source of stem cells
10:22 GMT, 30 November 2012
A patient's own blood has been used to make personalised stem cells, in a groundbreaking development which doctors hope will eventually be used to treat a range of diseases.
A team at the University of Cambridge believes the development could be one of the easiest and safest sources of stem cells.
Stem cells are the building blocks of tissue growth. They can transform into any other type of cell the
body is built from and so should be able to repair everything from
the brain to the heart.
A patient's own blood has been used to make personalised stem cells, in a groundbreaking development
In a study, published in the journal Stem Cells: Translational Medicine, the cells were used to build blood vessels.
The discovery offers an alternative option to sourcing stem cells from embryos, an ethically controversial route
Experts have already shown that skin
cells taken from an adult can be 'tricked' into becoming stem cells,
which the body should recognise as part of itself and would not reject.
Dr Amer Rana said this method was better than taking samples from skin.
She said: 'We are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem cells from a cell type found in blood.
'Tissue biopsies are undesirable – particularly for children and the elderly – whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.
'Researchers can freeze and store the blood cells, and then turn them into iPS cells at a later stage, rather than having to transform them as soon as they are sourced, as is the case for other cell types used previously.
'This will have tremendous practical value – prolonging the ‘use by date’ of patient samples.'
A stem cell, pictured, is the building block of all tissue and organ growth
However, experts cautioned that they were still unsure of how safe using such stem cells was.
The procedure works converting a type of blood cell which repairs the walls of damaged blood vessels into a stem cell, or an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell.
The study, was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust.
Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, said: 'These cells offer great potential – both for the study and potentially the future treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
'As iPS cells are made from the patient’s own tissue, they can be used to study diseases and hopefully one day to repair damaged tissue without being attacked by the body’s immune system.
'Being able to efficiently produce iPS cells using cells from a blood sample will make it easier for researchers to push this technology forward.
'But there are still many hurdles to overcome before this kind of technique could be used to treat patients.'