Over the last four years a consortium of over 40 researchers from Canada, Netherlands, South Korea and Australia have been working together to learn more about how stem cells can be made directly from a patient – a complex process called ‘reprogramming’. Their findings, recently published in the prestigious journals Nature and Nature Communications, reveal a new way to make stem cells that could greatly aid medical research.
While for almost a decade we have know that it is possible to reverse the pathway of development and make stem cells from a mature body cell like a skin cell, exactly how this happens and what are the controlling steps or checkpoints along this complex pathway has remained unclear.
However, using a variety of very sophisticated approaches to interrogate genes and proteins involved in this process, researchers in this ambitious international collaboration - nicknamed Project Grandiose - have been able to effectively develop a roadmap of reprogramming with a detail not previously possible.
At the heart of Project Grandiose is the Stemformatics team from The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and led by Associate Professor Christine Wells.
Using their skills and expertise the Stemformatics team were able to take the vast amount of data from other consortium members present it in a way that made it easier to access and comprehend.
The Stemformatics team was able to establish an online encyclopedia that other researchers could use to look-up the behaviour of individual genes or groups of genes they are interested in.
Commenting on the vital role of Stemformatics, leader of Project Grandiose Professor Andras Nagy from the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada said, “Stemformatics has been pivotal in elevating the Project Grandiose dataset to a whole new level. The user-friendly web-based interface allows for direct insights into the molecular events underlying the reprogramming process to pluripotent stem cells.”
One of the most exciting findings from Project Grandiose was the discovery that a new type of ‘artificial’ stem cell - dubbed F-class – which has unique properties compared to the previously known stem cell types. This discovery opens up the possibility of exploring different ways to arrive at new cell types in the laboratory with important implications for regenerative medicine and stem cell science.
We would like to congratulate Christine Wells and her Stemformatics’ colleagues Rowland Mosbergen and Othmar Korn on the stellar achievements of Project Grandiose, as well as acknowledge the incredible contribution by the research teams headed by Professor Andras Nagy from the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute; Professor Thomas Preiss from the Australian National University; Professor Jeong-Sun Seo from Seoul National University; Professor Albert Heck from Utrecht University, and Professor Peter Zandstra from the University of Toronto and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.
For more information:
Stem cells the black box of reprogramming (Nature 10 December 2014)
New Stem Cell State (Science 10 December 2014)
New UQ platform aids stem cell research (UQ News 10 December 2014)
New stem cell opens door to regeneration (The Australian 11 December 2014)
Researchers identify stem cells that can be reprogrammed (The Age 11 December 2014)
'Grow your own' body parts a step closer after stem cell breakthrough (The Age 11 December 2014)
Toronto-led international research team makes stem cell breakthrough (The Globe and Mail 10 December 2014)
Pioneering Toronto scientist continues to demystify stem cells (The Star 11 December 2014)
Stemformatics is a collaboration between the stem cell and bioinformatics community and a core technology in our Stem Cells Australia initiative. Christine Wells and her Stemformatics colleagues Rowland Mosbergen and Othmar Korn are valued members of our initiative. Professor Andras Nagy is a member of Stem Cells Australia's Scientific Advisory Committee.