What are Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells?
Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) such as embryonic stem cells (ESC) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) can give rise to any fetal or adult cell type and have the ability to self-renew indefinitely.
In contrast to human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) which develop during embryogenesis from the inner cell mass of the human blastocyst, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are pluripotent cells artificially derived from an already differentiated cell type by process called reprogramming. Reprogramming is achieved by introducing stem cell-specific transcription factors into a pre-mature or mature somatic cell type.
The resulting iPSCs phenotypically and functionally resemble embryonic stem cells (ESCs), e.g. they can indefinitely self-renew in culture and have the potential to differentiate into cell types from all three germ layers i.e. any cell type. However, it remains to be assessed in more detail, whether they can be considered fully identical to natural pluripotent cells.
The Power of iPSCs
- Basic research: iPSCs can help scientists to further identify mechanisms of development or disease pathogenesis.
- Human disease models: Cells derived from human iPSCs could serve as novel human disease models for performing in vitro drug screening and toxicity studies. Patient-specific iPSC-derived cells may help to evaluate drug effects on individual genomic differences.
- Regenerative medicine: Moreover, iPSCs also hold great potential for being a new tool in regenerative medicine, e.g. for the treatment of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s and a number of cardiovascular diseases. They could serve as a renewable source of material for producing therapeutic cells for transplantation. Because they can be derived from any individual, iPSCs may be useful for generating autologous therapeutic cells for transplantation for replacing damaged or diseased cells.