CRISPR should allow induced pluripotent stem cells to be obtained more easily from skin cells. This is the observation made by Gladstone Institute scientists who have worked on reprogramming murine cells by activating two specific cells using CRISPR. “We didn’t think that this would work at the outset, explained Sheng Ding, the principal author, “however, we wanted at least to try to answer the following question – can a cell be reprogrammed simply by releasing a specific site in the genome? And the answer is yes”.
The technique used to obtain iPS cells to date has involved the introduction of transcription factors into the skin cell culture medium. Transcription factors act by modifying gene expression in the cells. They deactivate the genes related to skin cells and activate those associated with stem cells. Sheng Ding’s study, published in Cell Stem cell, offers a new technique whereby skin cells can be transformed into stem cells by handling the cell genome directly via CRISPR. This could be a more straightforward approach for potentially reprogramming skin cells directly into other cell types (cardiac, neural), disregarding the stem cell stage.