The recent technological breakthrough has paved the way to convert adult differentiated cells such as skin cells into undifferentiated cells called human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells that have an ability (pluripotency) to become all types of adult cells in human body. Because of this enormous ability, hiPS cells are thought to be the potential source of the cell-transplantation therapy for the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's disease and diabetes mellitus. Despite this promising function of hiPS cells, due to its short history, there are many biological questions and practical hurdles to overcome. One questions is how we can distinguish fully converted genuine iPS cells from incompletely converted cells. Other important issues include development of technologies to derive and grow hiPS cells at high efficiency under completely animal-free conditions for future medical purposes.
We have recently identified a signaling pathway (like a hormone that mediates biological information) that controls cell-cell attachment of pluripotent stem cells. Moreover, by controlling this pathway, we have established a method to grow another type of pluripotent cells, human embryonic stem (hES) cells, in a fully animal-free condition.
In this proposal, we will investigate whether measuring the activity of this pathway could be helpful to select genuine iPS cells. Furthermore, by using this technology, we will develop a new method to efficiently generate and expand a new hiPS cell lines that are completely free from animal-derived materials.
Our research will focus on developing novel technologies by which hES and iPS cells can be propagated under completely defined conditions.
The establishment of such a new method would impact virtually all hES and iPS cell-based application programs as it involves a common basic process to expand undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells before turning into any type of adult cells for the therapeutic purposes.
It is therefore predictable that the new methodology will be promptly translated as an intellectual property to be commercialized, and would substantially activate the biotechnology field in the State of California.
More importantly, the new methodology will be provided to the Institutes in California at the highest priority where the method will accelerate the process to apply the pluripotent cell-based transplantation approach for the clinical settings that would further substantiate the enhancement of the medical environment for California citizens.