Stem cells are versatile cells that can turn into almost anything - skin, organs, brain tissue. They could revolutionize medicine, but these cells are hard to get. Until now. New research proves human fat will yield an endless supply.
This week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of researchers announced that they've figured out how to turn human fat cells into stem cells. According to a release about their work:
The researchers isolated adipose [fat] cells from adults between the ages of 45 and 60 and attempted to reprogram the cells into stem cells using an established genetic targeting method. At the same time, the authors began the same procedure with adult skin cells. The adipose cells produced adult stem cells nearly twice as fast and approximately 20 times more efficiently than skin cells.
Above, you can see a stem cell colony growing from fat cells. It's difficult to get stem cells because most of them come from embryos, which triggers both logistical and ethical problems for researchers. Scientists have had some luck reprogramming adult skin cells to become stem cells, but unfortunately (as these researchers demonstrated again) the method isn't reliable. Now the search for an endless supply of stem cells could be over. Joseph Wu, who led the study, told the Telegraph:
Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently. Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away.
It turns out all those fattening foods may actually cure disease after all. Just liposuction your fat out, reprogram the cells to be stem cells, and grow yourself some new, unclogged arteries and a brand-new heart.