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Induced pluripotent stem cells don't increase mutations: Study

Research finds that pluripotent stem cells do not create more genetic mutations than subcloning.

By Amy Wallace
Induced pluripotent stem cells don't increase mutations: Study
Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) -- stem cells that are capable of differentiating into one of many cell types -- are a technique that opens the doors to medical advances. A new study shows they are not more likely to cause genetic mutations as subcloning cells. Photo by Andrii Vodolazhskyi/Shutterstock

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A new study from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, has found that induced pluripotent stem cells would be safe to use in genetic engineering.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPSCs, are the result of a breakthrough technique developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, Ph.D., and Kazutoshi Takahashi, Ph.D., to return adult human cells to their earliest stage of development, and then change it into different types of cells in the body.

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The practice of using IPSCs in medical advancements such as generating cartilage cell tissue to repair knees or cardiac cells to restore damaged heart tissue has been slowed by concerns from the medical community that the cells could be more susceptible to genetic mutations.

But the new study from the National Human Genome Research Institute, or NHGRI, part of the NIH, has found that IPSCs are no more likely to develop genetic mutations than cells duplicated by subcloning, a process where single cells are cultured individually and then grown into a cell line.

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Researchers studied donated cells from a healthy person and from a person with the blood disease familial platelet disorder. Genetically identical copies of the cells were created using both IPSCs and the subcloning technique using skin cells from the donors.

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Researchers then sequenced the DNA of the skin cells along with the IPSC and the subcloned cells and found mutations occurred at the same rate in IPSC and subcloned cells.

"This technology will eventually change how doctors treat diseases," Dr. Pu Paul Llu, Ph.D., senior investigator in NHGRI's Translational and Functional Genomics Branch, deputy scientific director for the Division of Intramural Research and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "These findings suggest that the question of safety shouldn't impede research using IPSC."

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The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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