Holy cow! Scientists have demonstrated that pluripotency may not be necessary to transform cells into other body tissues, meaning that “stem cells” might prove unnecessary in regenerative medicine. In mice, they transformed fibroblasts—cells that construct connective tissue —directly into functional brain cells. From the story:
In a striking demonstration of cellular flexibility, scientists have created functioning neurons from fibroblasts, without going through an intermediate pluripotent stage, according to a study published online this week in Nature. “It’s really exciting,” said molecular geneticist Mathias Treier of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the University of Cologne in Germany, who was not involved in the research. “It shows that cells can switch their fate” without going through the pluripotent state, avoiding the potential for tumor formation. “[In] the future, with the right cocktail mix, this [might be] possible for other tissues and organs,” he added.
Please note—this is not an adult stem cell success. It is direct programming from one kind of cell directly into another. Still much work to do before it is demonstrated that the technique can be used in human clinical work—some scientists express doubts—but a great step forward. Good ethics do produce good science.