Canadian researchers have developed a new method for generating stem cells from adult human tissue, a move they believe will bring the dream of personalized regenerative medicine a step closer to reality.

In a study published online yesterday in the journal Nature, scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto describe a new reprogramming procedure to transform adult cells — such as those from a patch of skin — into stem cells.

Like embryonic stem cells, they are “pluripotent,” meaning they can give rise to almost any kind of cell in the body.

“This new method of generating stem cells does not require embryos as starting points and could be used to generate cells from many adult tissues, such as a patient’s own skin cells,” said principal author Andras Nagy, senior investigator at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute.

One of the critical components reported in Nagy’s paper was developed in conjunction with Dr. Keisuke Kaji of the University of Edinburgh.

The ability to transform skin cells into stem cells isn’t new. But previous approaches required the use of viruses to deliver the four genes needed to activate the cell and accomplish that task.

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