Researchers discover new way to make stem cells

Allison Kronberg

Researchers in Japan have discovered how to make embryonic stem cells from one blood cell in mice by adding a slightly acidic solution to the cell, according to news sources.

Biologist Haruko Obokata and her team at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology’s findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, NPR reported.

The process is called SNAP, or "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency,” according to CNN. Jeff Karp, associate professor of medicine at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute told CNN that SNAP is the fastest and cheapest way of reprogramming cells to date. He was not involved in the study.

The idea of stressing cells was inspired by nature, according to NBC News. For instance, crocodile eggs develop into males or female depending on temperature differences.

Stem cells can be manipulated into almost any body cell, NPR reported, and can treat a multitude of illnesses.

Past methods of harvesting stem cells relied on retrieving cells from an embryo, which resulted in the destruction of the embryo, according to CNN. This new method avoids embryo destruction, but is still accompanied with worries of cloning and other ethical concerns.

In order to use the cells for medical purposes, the researchers must determine if the cells can be used for treatment of diseases in humans, University of Cambridge biochemist Austin Smith, who was not involved in the study, told NPR.