Canadian researchers convert skin cells to blood cells

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Canadian researchers convert skin cells into blood cells: skin becomes blood. Canadian researchers have converted adult skin cells into blood cells.

Canadian researchers have succeeded in converting skin cells into blood. This could make blood donations a thing of the past, because every patient in need could receive blood transfusions made from their own skin.

Doctors complain of a lack of blood donations Doctors have long complained that people donate too little blood. Now the Canadian research team led by Mick Bhatia from McMaster University in Hamilton (Ontario) has found a possible solution. The scientists have made blood cells from human skin cells without having to resort to stem cells. The study results of Mick Bhatia and colleagues were published in the current issue of the specialist journal "Nature".

12 square centimeters of skin for a blood transfusion According to the Canadian research group, twelve square centimeters of skin are sufficient to obtain enough blood for a transfusion. In particular, cancer patients, who have often had to put up with long waiting times for transfusion blood, could, according to the scientists, benefit from the new procedure. There could also be advantages for chemotherapy patients, since continuous treatment over a longer period of time would be possible without the usual breaks in therapy, according to the scientists in the current “Nature” article.

Skin cells converted into blood progenitor cells Until now, it was only possible to obtain blood cells from skin cells if medical professionals used the detour via the conversion to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). However, this is very time-consuming, expensive, and ethically controversial. With the method that has now been developed, on the other hand, the scientists have been able to reprogram the skin cells so that they form precursor cells that can develop in the human body into all important blood cells such as red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes) or platelets (thrombocytes) . "Our method is faster (than conventional methods) and produces exactly the right kind of cells in one step," emphasized the head of the stem cell and cancer research institute in Hamilton, Mick Bhatia. The new approach also offers ethical advantages, since it does not require iPS, which are not as controversial as embryonic stem cells, but are still viewed critically by many people.

Only one gene of the skin cells changes The conversion of the skin cells into blood cells is based on the introduction of a gene into the corresponding cells, whereby Mick Bhatia and his research colleagues first had to analyze which genetic changes are necessary to achieve the desired conversion. They came to the conclusion that the modification of a gene (OCT4) is sufficient for the skin cells to transform into the progenitor cells of all blood cells. However, a mixture of cytokines had to be added to the cells to initiate the aforementioned development. Cytokines are glycoproteins that regulate cell growth and differentiation of cells. The Canadian researchers took samples of human skin cells, multiplied them in the laboratory, modified the OCT4 gene and injected the cytokines. They have succeeded in converting adult skin cells into blood progenitor cells that can be used as blood transfusions and then take on the shape of the required blood cells in the human body. “We were able to show for the first time that it is human skin. We now know how it works and we can definitely optimize the process even further, ”emphasized Mick Bhatia as part of the current“ Nature ”article.

Hope for blood cancer or blood diseases "Of course, we cannot yet say when clinical use will actually occur," the study leader explained, but the research team was confident that their approach would be more practical than the detour via the induced pluripotents Cells. The scientists hope that in the near future, for example, blood that is needed for transfusions during an operation could be obtained from the patient's skin tissue. On the one hand, this would remedy the lack of blood supplies and, on the other hand, it would make the search for a suitable blood donor unnecessary. According to the researchers, this could also open up completely new treatment options for patients with blood cancer (leukemia) or other blood diseases such as anemia or anemia. "The next step is now to produce enough blood cells" and "to test whether the cells can also be frozen so that they can be kept in stock when a patient needs them," said Mick Bhatia in conclusion. (Fp, 10.11.2010)

Also read:
Human spare parts made from skin cells

Image: Xenia B. /

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