Stem Cells

A study, directed by UW researcher Josh Coon, shows embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are almost identical.

Paul Sancya — Associated Press archives

A study released Sunday shows embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are almost identical.

Since human IPS cells were first produced from mouse cells in 2006 and from human cells in 2007, it has been thought they were equivalent to embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are derived from human embryos.

But new research, directed by Josh Coon, a UW-Madison associate professor of chemistry and biomolecular chemistry, shows the proteins in the two types of cells are almost identical.

Stem cells have the ability to develop into any of the different types of cells in the body. In many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells.

Research into stem cells is considered critical to finding cures for many diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries.

UW-Madison stem cell researcher Jamie Thomson became the first person to isolate human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

Coon’s study, published online in Nature Methods, aimed to compare most of the proteins present in the embryonic stem cells and the IPS cells, which have been reprogrammed to function like embryonic stem cells.

New technologies have allowed studies in the past couple of years to show the two types of stem cells to be similar, but nobody has had the ability to look at the proteins, the molecules that do most of the biological functions, Coon said.

“In this study, we applied very cutting edge proteomic technologies to look at all the proteins or a very large percentage of them (in both types of cells) and we compared many cell lines, and what we found was that the protein levels are very similar in the two cell types,” he said.

Coon, whose lab did the research in collaboration with Thompson’s lab, said there is less than a 1 percent difference in the proteins between one cell type and the other.

His study is the first to show that at the protein level.

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