Induced pluripotent stem cells, a more thorough cure for sickle cell anemia
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells were been proven as a cure for sickle cell anemia in mice in 2007. A group of researchers at MIT’s Whitehead Institute in Boston took skin cells from the tails of mice with sickle cell anemia and altered the cells to produce iPS cells. The scientists then replaced the mutated gene that causes sickle cell anemia in the extracted cells with a healthy gene. Once the iPS cells had differentiated, the researchers reintroduced them into the mice. Amazingly, the mice began to produce healthy blood cells, effectively curing their sickle cell anemia.
The major advantage to iPS cells over adult stem cells is that because the cells are derived from the host him or herself, the cells are not at risk for immune rejection. This means that if scientists can produce a safe method for using iPS therapy in humans, they will be able to cure sickle cell anemia in all patients.
A major drawback had been that the process of creating iPS cells from skin cells triggered oncogenic genes which can cause cancer. However, in the past few years, research has been done to prove that scientists can create iPS cells without triggering oncogenic genes, therefore eliminating the risk of cancer in introducing iPS cells into the body. Although work still needs to be done before this method is deemed safe for humans, this research proved that iPS cells can cure sickle cell anemia.
Learn more at The New England Journal of Medicine.