Recipe for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Just Got Clearer

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Science  14 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5942, pp. 803
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_803a

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Inserting a few genes can reprogram an adult mammalian cell, making it capable of then diversifying into any of the body's tissues. These so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells could provide an alternative to controversial embryonic stem cells, but scientists still haven't deciphered exactly how the process works. A clutch of five letters published online this week cracks this black box by showing that p53, a gene noted for its role in suppressing tumors, hinders the generation of iPS cells. The work suggests ways to control the formation of iPS cells, although that capability will have to be used judiciously because p53 helps ensure the fitness of generated cells.