Most of you already know the central dogma of Biology--DNA makes RNA makes protein. Today's blog highlights a related discovery that according to author Monte Morin in an article published January 29, 2014 in the LA Times, "caught many experts off guard."
A stem cell, I'm sure, is familiar to you. For review, stem cells are the undifferentiated cells of a multicellular organism that are capable of giving rise to other kinds of cell. Miriam Webster's dictionary says it this way, "a simple cell in the body that is able to develop into any one of various kinds of cells (such as blood cells, skin cells, etc.)"
The cells from which the beating heart above were grown are called STAP cells. They are produced by taking the blood cells of newborn mice and soaking them for 30 minutes in a mildly acidic solution. This procedure reprograms the cell to become capable of producing any cell in the body or a pluripotent cell. STAP stands for stimulus triggered acquisition of pluripotency.
According to Dr. Haruko Obakata, a biochemistry researcher at the RIKEN research institute in Japan and lead study author of Acid bath offers easy path to stem cells, “It was really surprising to see that such a remarkable transformation could be triggered simply by stimuli from outside of the cell." Why does this work? Dr. Obakata and her colleagues stated simply that remains a mystery.
The implications for medical research are endless. According to the LA Times article, "pluripotent stem cells are considered the basic building blocks of biology." There are many controversies surrounding the use of stem cells, but if STAP cells can be created from a patient's own mature cells this could transform medical science.
Do you want to be part of these kinds of discoveries? Hurry for summer experiences, then.
Here's a step in the right direction--Pathways to Science!