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New Way to Begin Again

A pair of papers in Nature from researchers at Japan's Riken Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston report on a new technique for generating embryonic-like stem cells that some researchers are calling a "paradigm-changer."

In the papers, the researchers present their stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, approach to reprogramming cells. In brief, the STAP approach exposes cells to a strong stimulus — in this case, low pH — that they would normal not encounter. In some cases, this appears to trigger the generation of pluripotent cells. In mouse chimeras, the group shows that STAP-generated cells can grew into various mouse tissues.

"If this works in people as well as it does in mice, it looks faster, cheaper and possibly safer than other cell reprogramming technologies — personalized reprogrammed cell therapies may now be viable," Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London who was not involved in the work, tells the BBC.

Other researchers are a bit more guarded. The University of California, San Francisco's Sheng Ding tells the New York Times that existing approaches are already quite advanced. "It's too early to say this is better, safer or more practical," Ding adds.

Dusko Ilic at Kings College London notes to the BBC that while this new method appears to be "revolutionary," it needs to be used with caution. "It does not bring stem cell-based therapy closer. We will need to use the same precautions for the cells generated in this way as for the cells isolated from embryos or reprogrammed with a standard method," Ilic says.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people 65 and older or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.