News FocusSTEM CELLS

Diseases in a Dish Take Off

Science  26 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6008, pp. 1172-1173
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6008.1172

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Summary

Ever since the first human embryonic stem cells were isolated, scientists have dreamed of using them to study intractable diseases. That dream, stem cell biologists say, is in the early days of becoming reality. There are still plenty of hurdles, but already researchers have shown that reprogrammed cells from patients with a handful of rare genetic disorders can provide new clues about how the diseases do their damage. In several cases, the cells have pointed toward promising new treatments. The turning point came with the 2006 discovery that adult cells could be reprogrammed to an embryolike state simply by adding a handful of genes to the cells. Already, dozens of labs around the world are making these so-called induced pluripotent stem cells from patients and coaxing the cells to become the tissues that are affected by a given disease, in essence creating "diseases in a dish."