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Stem cells generated from just a drop of blood!

In a major breakthrough, a team of scientists has developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from just a drop of finger-pricked blood.

As hiPSCs exhibit properties remarkably similar to human embryonic stem cells, they are invaluable resources for scientific research.

Earlier methods to generate hiPSCs generally required large quantities of blood.

The new method developed by scientists at Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Singapore also enables donors to collect their own blood samples which they can then send to a laboratory for further processing.

The do it yourself (DIY) finger-prick technique is the world’s first to use only a drop of finger-pricked blood to yield hiPSCs with high efficiency.

“It all began when we wondered if we could reduce the volume of blood used for (genetic) reprogramming. We then tested if donors could collect their own blood sample in a normal room environment and store it,” said Loh Yuin Han Jonathan, principal investigator at IMCB.

“Our finger-prick technique, in fact, utilised less than a drop of finger-pricked blood. The remaining blood could even be used for DNA sequencing and other blood tests,” Jonathan said.

The accessibility of the new technique is further enhanced with a DIY sample collection approach.

The blood sample remains stable for 48 hours and can be expanded for 12 days in culture, which therefore extends the finger-prick technique to a wide range of geographical regions for recruitment of donors with varied ethnicities, genotypes and diseases.

By integrating it with the hiPSC bank initiatives, the finger-prick technique has paved the way for establishing diverse and fully characterised hiPSC banking for stem cell research.

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The potential access to a wide range of hiPSCs could also replace the use of embryonic stem cells, which are less accessible, the researchers suggested.

The study appeared in the journal Stem Cell Translational Medicine.


H.-K. Tan, C.-X. D. Toh, D. Ma, B. Yang, T. M. Liu, J. Lu, C.-W. Wong, T.-K. Tan, H. Li, C. Syn, E.-L. Tan, B. Lim, Y.-P. Lim, S. A. Cook, Y.-H. Loh. Human Finger-Prick Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Facilitate the Development of Stem Cell Banking. Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.5966/sctm.2013-0195

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