See Inside January 2008

Stem Cell Control

The essential character of the mother of all cells reveals itself in a set of breakthrough findings

The all-powerful potential of stem cells to become any kind of cell is what makes them so promising for restoring diseased or damaged tissues throughout the body—and also what makes them so difficult for scientists to control. But several breakthroughs represent major strides toward understanding and harnessing the cells' elusive property of inherent “stemness.”

Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, who transformed a regular mouse skin cell into a cell with most of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) by turning up the activity of just four genes, demonstrated recently a more precise way of isolating cells “reprogrammed” to an ESC-like state—and several other laboratories have replicated his results.

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