Two teams of scientists have identified combinations of 4 genes that can reprogram a human skin cell to assume an embryonic stem cell–like state. Because the use of stem cells derived from human embryos is controversial, some investigators say that if the approach ultimately yields a source of stem cells that serves as an alternative or adjunct to embryonic stem cells, it is an important advance that will greatly aid stem cell research.
By comparing the genes that are active in human embryonic stem cells with those active in myeloid precursor cells, a team of scientists from Wisconsin compiled a list of candidate genes and prioritized those known to be involved in pluripotency (Yu J et al. Science. doi:10.1126/science.1151526 [published online ahead of print November 20, 2007]). They then tested various combinations of genes—delivered to cells via lentivirus vector—to determine which were essential to reprogram a cell to assume a pluripotent state. Through this process, they identified a set of 4 genes—OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, and LIN28.
Kuehn BM. Skin Cells Reprogrammed to Be Stem Cells. JAMA. 2008;299(1):26. doi:10.1001/jama.2007.42