The original reprogramming method created a stir when introduced, the scientists said, but they noted the process was woefully inefficient.
Now, a team of researchers led by Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has succeeded in boosting the reprogramming efficiency more than 100-fold, while cutting the time it takes in half.
They said their new method not only provides a practical and simple alternative for the generation of patient- and disease-specific stem cells but also spares patients invasive procedures to collect suitable starting material, since the process only requires a single human hair.
"Having a very efficient and practical way of generating patient-specific stem cells -- which unlike human embryonic stem cells, wouldn't be rejected by the patient's immune system after transplantation -- brings us a step closer to the clinical application of stem cell therapy," said Belmonte, director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain.
The research is reported ahead of print in the online edition of Nature Biotechnology.