Improving the safety of stem cells
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have the potential to generate healthy cells and tissues for the study and medical treatment of a large number of diseases. Therefore, ensuring the safety and stability of these cells is a priority for scientists around the world.
A new test that identifies unsafe cells
We have developed the first safety test specifically for iPS cells. This is a significant step in improving the quality of iPS cells and identifying unwanted cells that can form tumours.
The test uses laser technology to identify proteins found on the surface of the cells. Based on the presence or absence of specific proteins the cells are then separated and monitored. Unsafe stem cell lines are easily identified because they form recognisable clusters of cells and the safe ones don't.
Using this test method, our researchers have shown that certain ways of making iPS cells carry more risks.
When the standard technique is used, which relies on viruses to permanently change the DNA of a cell, unwanted tumours are more likely to form. In comparison, cells made using methods which do not alter cell DNA, do not form tumours.
Improving quality control around the globe
The new test method has helped raise the awareness and importance of stem cell safety, and is expected to lead to improvements in quality control globally.
Professor Martin Pera, Program Leader of Stem Cells Australia, said: "Although cell transplantation therapies based on iPS cells are being fast-tracked for testing in humans, there is still much debate in the scientific community over the potential hazards of this new technology."
"This important study provides a simple and powerful technique for assessing how safe stem cell lines are for use in patients," he said.