“It is a totally new method that can remove cells that could turn cancerous,” said Kenichiro Kosai, a professor of gene therapy and regenerative medicine at Kagoshima University. “The technique could be used for clinical purposes in the field of regenerative medicine.”
Cells that can develop into various types of tissue, such as iPS cells and embryonic stem (ES) cells, are believed to be able to cure certain diseases if they are introduced in the body after converting them into a specific tissue.
But pluripotent cells that fail to differentiate into a specific tissue are more likely to become cancerous, posing a grave problem for the clinical use of those cells.
Kosai and colleagues studied a gene known as survivin, which is activated in cancer cells. They discovered that survivin is also activated in iPS cells and ES cells that fail to develop into other cells.
The researchers created strains of a genetically modified virus that can proliferate and kill cells that contain survivin. Seven days after the modified virus was introduced into undifferentiated iPS cells and ES cells, all those cells died.
Meanwhile, cells that had turned into the specific tissue survived the introduction of the virus.
The research team presented its findings at a conference of the Japan Society of Gene Therapy on July 25 in Osaka.
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