Recently an article in the journal "New Scientist" published a disturbing article about IPS cells. IPS cells are called Induced Pluripotential Stem cells. These are cells that are made from adult cells to act more like an embryonic cell or a pluripotential cell. This is typically done by the use of an enzyme or a virus that in encrypted into the cell. Many times skin cells are utilized to form IPS cells. The virus method unfortunately will sometimes activate an oncogene. An oncogene is sometimes responsible for the activation of cancer. Other potential problems with these cells deals with the stability of the DNA. Remember we are trying to make a younger type cell from an older one. We must remember that the cell may seem younger but the DNA is old. The DNA has accumulated telomere damage.
Getting back to the New Scientist article IPS cells were involved in a clinical study of blindness. The study was halted after genetic mutations were found in the cells of a second trial participant. The trial was halted by DR. Masayo Takahashi who is a prominent stem cell scientist. It was felt that one of the mutations may possibly lead to cancer.
A concern about this study was this mutation occurred in the second patient. What is concerning about this study was the fact that that IPS cell was found to have six mutations. Three of the mutations were from genes that were deleted and three were related to changes in the nucleotides. THE MUTATIONS WERE NOT DETECTED IN THE ORIGINAL CELLS. Thus intuitively it seems that the mutations were caused by the IPS process. Although, oncogenes were activated there is no guarantee that a cancer would have developed. This predicament gives us pause for thought. Perhaps IPS cells may not be the home run that many thought they might be. The potential is there but the safely is not. I suspect the problems of the oncogenes can be worked out. I still have questions about the DNA stability. For those people using regular adult stem cells the IPS failure is certainly vindicating news. Good results are being obtained in non-manipulated adult stem cells. I am not aware of any worries about a cancer form from regular adult stem cells. Perhaps those pundits who are quick to point a finger at those people using adult non-manipulated stem cells should do a bit of introspection and look at themselves in the mirror. I am not sure why this failure of the IPS cells was not discussed by those who are so critical of many aspects of the stem cell field. This is certainly a significant problem that has inherent dangers to patients. I am not to go around and state that using IPS cells is irresponsible. I will show respect for this cell and its proponents just like I would expect them to show it to me.