The power of regenerative medicine now allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons. However, a method to generate cells that are fully mature—a crucial prerequisite for life-saving therapies—has proven far more difficult. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have made an important breakthrough: they have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.
Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have devised a new method that allows for the more efficient—and, importantly, more complete—reprogramming of skin cells into cells that are virtually indistinguishable from heart muscle cells. These findings, based on animal models and described in the latest issue of Cell Reports, offer newfound optimism in the hunt for a way to regenerate muscle lost in a heart attack.
A cure for type 1 diabetes has long eluded even the top experts. Not because they do not know what must be done—but because the tools did not exist to do it. But now scientists at the Gladstone Institutes, harnessing the power of regenerative medicine, have developed a technique in animal models that could replenish the very cells destroyed by the disease. The team’s findings, published online today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, are an important step towards freeing an entire generation of patients from the life-long injections that characterize this devastating disease.
There is no easy way to study diseases of the brain. Extracting brain cells, or neurons, from a living patient is difficult and risky, while examining a patient’s brain post-mortem usually only reveals the disease’s final stages. And animal models, while incredibly informative, have frequently fallen short during the crucial drug-development stage of research. But scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have taken a potentially more powerful approach: an advanced stem-cell technique that creates a human model of degenerative disease in a dish.
In the aftermath of a heart attack, cells within the region most affected shut down. They stop beating. And they become entombed in scar tissue. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have demonstrated that this damage need not be permanent—by finding a way to transform the class of cells that form human scar tissue into those that closely resemble beating heart cells.
Shinya Yamanaka next month will receive the Essey Award for his “Commitment to a Cure” from The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. This annual award represents the exceptional determination, spirit and dedication to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Gladstone Institutes’ Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, is one of 11 medical researchers to win a new, high-profile $3 million award from a group of high-tech sponsors, including the founders of Facebook and Google.