Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) is a Wisconsin company at the epicenter of stem cell research. CDI’s founder and chief scientific officer, James Thomson, is well-known internationally for isolating the first embryonic stem cell and for co-discovering ethical iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). CDI was recently awarded a patent for its new method of creating ethical iPS cells.
Embryonic stem cells can only be procured by destroying a living human embryo, a method which has received strong objection because of its dependence on the destruction of human life. iPS cells are derived from adult tissue cells such as skin cells which are reprogrammed to mimic the desired attributes of embryonic stem cells but do not involve the destruction of human life. Currently, iPS cells represent the future of stem cell research.
The patent received by CDI is based on the method by which iPS cells are created. The original method involved using a virus to insert genes into the adult skin cells. The new method uses “episomal vectors” in the reprogramming process, thus minimizing the potential detrimental impact of using a virus. “What is particularly noteworthy with the episomal method is that foreign DNA is not integrated into the genome of the cell during the reprogramming process,” according to Thomson as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. CDI makes its stem cells technologies available to scientists worldwide.
This is indeed another giant step forward for ethical stem cell research!