Scientists from Harvard Medical School developed unique and, the most important, simple method to trig the development of somatic cells into stem cells.
Our body mostly consists from normal, somatic cells, which are fully developed and which gene expression patterns are customized for a specific tissue to perform its function. However, we also have the stem cells, which are able to differentiate into any tissue of the organism and to replace aged or ill somatic cells. The Nobel prize in medicine in 2012 was given to scientists, who can revert the process of stem cells differentiation and to produce stem cells from skin fibroblasts using 4 transcriptions factors. Although the substance consists from only four components, the technology is difficult and it is not applicable for for large amount of cells.
Now, as a major of great scientific discoveries, a very simple method for converting somatic cells into stem cells was discovered occasionally. Dr. Haruko Obokata just added acid (creating low pH) to the mouse blood, and what lead to spontaneous conversion of lymphocytes into stem cells!
This method creates the basis for development of stem cell medicine, however, we should wait until it will be tried on human cells.
image: University of Wisconsin-Madison
More information: Nature