January 18, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

More thoughts from STAP acid reprogramming stem cell paper

stap stem cells embryo
Supposed stap stem cells embryo.

The STAP papers on making iPS like cells using acid treatment of differentiated cells really has people talking. See embryo at right made from GFP reporter STAP cells that glow green.

As I said in my review of the papers yesterday, there are still some critical things we do not know about STAP cells and I posed 6 key questions that remain open so we cannot really predict their impact quite yet or the impact of this technology.

I will, however, make a few predictions and through some additional thoughts out there based on this development.

We will see a wave of papers in the next 6-12 months with various researchers reporting that they have done all kinds of very harsh things to cells and by doing so they made them into stem cells.

If this technology is reproducible and works in human cells, it also has potential for cancer treatments as well. Would this be based on low pH reprogramming of cancer cells? I’m not so sure because notably cancer cells are already acidic and create an acidic microenvironment. Could that contribute to cancer plasticity?

It’s also possible that the controversial, elusive VSELs and MUSE cells might have some connection to stress-related reprogramming or induced plasticity in vivo.

It is in addition a concern that almost killing cells with stress, even if they turn into the STAP stem cells, might leave some residual damage in the STAP cells that manifests later. Even though the karyotypes of the STAP cells were reported as normal, I wonder if smaller, but still significant damage either in the nucleus or elsewhere in the cells could manifest later on with deeper analysis.

The bottom line is this remains a fascinating development that has raised both some skepticism and also lots of excitement in the stem cell community.

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