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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

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.