COLUMBIA, MO. — Scientists at the University of Missouri say they found a way to convert regular cells from a pig's connective tissue — called fibroblasts — into stem cells, with no cloning involved.
"It's important to develop a good animal model to test these new therapies," says R. Michael Roberts, professor of animal science and biochemistry at MU's Bond Life Sciences Center. "Cures with stem cells are not right around the corner, but the pig could be an excellent model for testing new therapies because it's so similar to humans in many ways."
The researchers cultured fibroblasts from a fetal pig, then inserted four specific genes into the cells. The genes "reprogrammed" the differentiated fibroblasts to "believe" they were stem cells, according to the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
The significance is that the cells were not derived from embryos and no cloning techniques were used, eliminating some of the controversy around stem-cell research, Roberts says.