Calgary scientists make stem cell breakthrough

Date: Friday May. 25, 2012 9:27 AM ET

CALGARY Calgary scientists say they have revolutionized stem cell production and have found a way to create the super cells without the risk of cancer.

A pair of researchers at the University of Calgary have created a device that allows them to produce millions of cells which can then be reprogrammed to make stem cells.

Dr. Derrick Rancourt and Dr. Roman Krawetz say they have perfected a new bioreactor technology that allows them to make millions of pluripotent stem cells much more quickly than ever before.

Pluripotent stem cells come from two main sources; embryos and adult cells that have been reprogrammed by scientists.

Scientists turn on four specific genes to reprogram the cells into stem cells which results in pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to differentiate into almost any cell in the body.

"The even better news is, we made these stem cells without introducing the cancer gene at all," says Rancourt, co-author of the research, published in the May issue of the prestigious journal Nature Methods. "These stem cells are an outstanding alternative to embryonic stem cells."

Up until now, scientists were limited in their research because it usually takes one million adult cells to make a single stem cell and the resulting stem cells are much more likely to cause cancer.

"Scientists can make a whole mouse from iPS cells," says Krawetz. "The challenge they face is, within two years, the mouse gets cancer."

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Calgary scientists make stem cell breakthrough

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