Pioneered by Nobel Prize laureate Shinya Yamanaka at the university, iPS cells have the ability to multiply infinitely and transform into various cells of the human body.
But observing the actual transformation is difficult because of the low frequency of the phenomenon.
The research team led by Takashi Tada, an associate professor of regenerative medicine at the university, genetically altered cells to make them glow green when they turn into iPS cells.
The moment the cells glowed meant that genes vital to iPS cells had begun functioning. These mid-transformation cells are called intermediately reprogrammed stem (iRS) cells, and the university researchers said they are the first to actually observe them.
Unlike iPS cells, iRS cells can survive even when they are separated into individual cells. Using the new method, scientists will be able to select genetically altered iRS cells with ease, they said.
“By using iRS cells, we will easily be able to produce iPS cells with disease genes,” Tada said. “We could be able to make use of the cells in the research of medicine and illnesses.”
Details of the team’s feat were published in the online version of the British scientific journal Development on 5 Jan.
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