Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Free of Vector and Transgene Sequences

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Science  08 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5928, pp. 797-801
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172482

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Designer Stem Cells

Despite their promise for use as disease models and in regenerative medicine, the generation of human-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells has been hindered by the integration of vector and transgenes in the host cell genome. Recent studies using the Cre/LoxP recombination strategy and the piggyBac transposon approach have approached this objective. However, Yu et al. (p. 797, published online 26 March) now show the derivation of human iPS cells from postnatal foreskin fibroblasts using the nonintegrating oriP/EBNA1-based episomal vectors. The resultant iPS cells show characteristics of human embryonic stem cells and are free of vector and transgenes.


Reprogramming differentiated human cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells has applications in basic biology, drug development, and transplantation. Human iPS cell derivation previously required vectors that integrate into the genome, which can create mutations and limit the utility of the cells in both research and clinical applications. We describe the derivation of human iPS cells with the use of nonintegrating episomal vectors. After removal of the episome, iPS cells completely free of vector and transgene sequences are derived that are similar to human embryonic stem (ES) cells in proliferative and developmental potential. These results demonstrate that reprogramming human somatic cells does not require genomic integration or the continued presence of exogenous reprogramming factors and removes one obstacle to the clinical application of human iPS cells.

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