An awesome medical breakthrough was made by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. [Sidenote: I’m changing my last name to McMaster.] They were able to transform skin cells into their choice of either red blood cells, white blood cells, a burrito supreme, or platelets without needing to regress them back all the way to the pluripotent stem cell stage first. Here’s the sciencey explanation for it that you can skip if it’s tl;dr.
The research team, lead by Mickie Bhatia, coaxed the skin cells into becoming blood cells via a harmless virus that carried a gene called OCT4 into the cells–this reprogrammed the cells, turning their developmental clock back part of the way. Then the cells were incubated in a mixture of cell-stimulating proteins, called cytokines, which directed them on their new paths as either red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. [80beats]
*puffs pipe* Quite so. Quite so.
Anyway, there are some awesome implications for this. Not only can it yield the blood cell type needed for a patient made from their own cells (eliminating rejection risk), but it’s also theorized to carry less risk of cancer by skipping the pluripotent stage. Also, previous research of this type only yielded fetal blood cells, which has a different hemoglobin type than adult blood. Adult blood is generally more useful than fetal blood. Just don’t tell that to SharonAStone. It’ll cause more harm than good if she replaces all the blood in her bathtub.