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Canadian scientists successfully convert skin into blood

The Canadian team was successful in creating the mother cells called blood progenitor cells that multiply to produce other blood cells and mature blood cells.

Now human skin cells can be directly converted into blood cells without first reversing them into flexible pluripotent stem cells, which are used to grow tissues, Canadian scientists have reported in the journal 'Nature.'

The study gains significance because it is believed that by converting skin cells into blood cells, the scientists will be successful in skipping the pluripotent stage where the risk of replaced tissue converting into dangerous tumors lies.

The Canadian team was successful in creating the mother cells called blood progenitor cells that multiply to produce other blood cells and mature blood cells.

Both types of cells could be used in medical treatment, said Mick Bhatia, study leader and a stem cell scientist at the McMaster University, Ontario.

Main focus of the team had been on generating mature stem cells capable of producing blood cells suitable for medical purposes but due to several reasons these stem cells were not very efficient at producing blood cells. As an alternative the team tried to convert the skin cells directly into blood cells.

Alternative source of human blood required
Mick said there is a need for an alternative source of human blood.

“Since this source would come from a patient's own skin, there would be no concern of rejection of the transplanted cells," stated Bhatia.

Main focus of the team had been on generating mature stem cells capable of producing blood cells suitable for medical purposes but due to several reasons these stem cells were not very efficient at producing blood cells. As an alternative the team tried to convert the skin cells directly into blood cells.

The team used the trial and error method to find out which genes are required to be activated to convert the cells into blood cells.

They found that they needed to trigger a single gene called OCT4 in skin cells and this gene is required to be soaked in accurate combinations of four to six growth factors to produce a variety of blood cells.

Successful trial on mice
By modifying this formula, the team has been successful in producing different types of blood cells.

To see if the cells can grow after being placed in the body, the research team planted some of these blood cells into mice. They found that some cells can grow in animals too.

The researchers also tested these cells injected in mice to determine if they would generate cancer but they did not.

The clinical trials of these cells are expected to start by 2012 if “everything goes well,” Bhatia said.