The discovery of how to ‘reprogram’ ordinary somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells rightly won Shinja Yamanaka the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012. His discovery has revolutionised stem cell biology and embryology. Furthermore, it has quickly become clear that this ‘induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)’ technology could also, in different ways, revolutionise both regenerative medicine and drug discovery. This rests primarily on two features of iPSCs. First, their pluripotentiality. This means that these cells can be used to generate tissue of any type. We now have protocols to generate neural cells, cardiomyocytes, liver, and several more. Second, iPSCs cells can be generated from any genotype: that is, from any individual patient or cell donor. Thus the range of genetic backgrounds that can be captured in this way is essentially infinite. In this presentation, I will explore why researchers in many fields believe that these properties open up avenues of research previously unavailable, and will make iPSCs a key technology of biomedical science in the coming decade.
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