Chinese scientists have made an important breakthrough in stem cell technology, showing that they can convert adult cells into stem cells, with the capacity to become any type of tissue, using just chemicals rather than genetic engineering. Back in 2006, Nobel prize-winner Shinya Yamanaka showed that adding a cocktail of genes to adult cells could take them back to a stem cell state, known as inducible pluripotent stem cells. Now Hongkui Deng and his team have managed to get the same effect in mouse cells using a handful of chemicals.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science this month, are now trying to get the technique to work in human cells, although it’s proving tricky. But if they can make it work, it could be extremely useful, as four of the compounds are already in clinical use. But for now, we’ll have to wait and see.