JAN 24, 2018 04:30 PM PST

Using CRISPR to Create Stem Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Stem cells hold a tremendous amount of research promise. At one time, obtaining them seemed to be a nearly insurmountable challenge, until a process was invented by Gladstone Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, Ph.D. After exposing skin cells to four specific proteins, stem cells will form. Now, investigators at Gladstone have made stem cells from mouse skin cells using another powerful technique - CRISPR gene editing. This method may be a more straightforward tool for some of the many potential applications of stem cells. The findings have been reported in Cell Stem Cell.

A colony of embryonic stem cells / Credit:Wikimedia Commons/ Ryddragyn

"This is a new way to make induced pluripotent stem cells that is fundamentally different from how they've been created before," noted author Sheng Ding, Ph.D., a senior investigator at Gladstone. "At the beginning of the study, we didn't think this would work, but we wanted to at least try to answer the question: can you reprogram a cell just by unlocking a specific location of the genome? And the answer is yes."

Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to become almost any type of cell. As such, they hold a lot of potential uses in the clinic. Conditions like blindness, heart failure, and Parkinson's disease might be treated by these cells, which also have many applications in the laboratory. 

In the Nobel-prize winning finding, transcription factors, which regulate gene expression, turned skin cells into what was named induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In an update to that work, a chemical cocktail created the necessary changes. In the latest research, stem cells were made from skin cells by using CRISPR to induce changes in gene expression. 

"Having different options to make iPSCs will be useful when scientists encounter challenges or difficulties with one approach," said Ding, who is also a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. "Our approach could lead to a simpler method of creating iPSCs or could be used to directly reprogram skin cells into other cell types, such as heart cells or brain cells."

For this work, the researchers used CRISPR to target two genes, Sox2 and Oct4. Those genes are known to control the expression of genes related to stem cell development. Through gene editing targeting a single location, they were able to initiate a chain reaction that reprogramed the cells and turn them into iPSCs. This way may be much simpler than altering transcription factors, which can affect hundreds or thousands of genes. 

"The fact that modulating one site is sufficient is very surprising," Ding noted. "Now, we want to understand how this whole process spreads from a single location to the entire genome."

Learn more about the potential clinical applications of stem cells from the video above, featuring Yamanaka.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Gladstone Institutes, Cell Stem Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 18, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 18, 2019
How Neutrophils are Involved in Gallstone Formation
Gallstones form in the gallbladder, and can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as big as a golf ball....
OCT 18, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 18, 2019
Revealing the Epigenetic Patterns That Specific Enzymes Create
Genomic DNA is modified by chemical markers called epigenetic tags, which can change gene expression without altering the underlying genetic code....
OCT 18, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 18, 2019
Investigating Previously Unmapped Regions of the Human Genome
Researchers have used cutting edge imaging tools to map a region of the human genome that has not been well-described....
OCT 18, 2019
Neuroscience
OCT 18, 2019
Neuroscientists create a stunning digital map of 1,000 neurons
Two years ago, Dr. Jayaram Chandrashekar and his colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus sought out to map the mouse brain as intricately as possible. Now,...
OCT 18, 2019
Neuroscience
OCT 18, 2019
Alzheimer's to be Diagnosed from Pupil Dilation
Researchers from the University of California have found a low-cost, non-invasive method to aid in diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) before cogniti...
OCT 18, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 18, 2019
A DNA 'Stitch' as a Therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
DMD is a genetic disorder that causes degeneration in muscles. Now there may be a treatment for as many as 47% of patients....
Loading Comments...