Nanog Molecule News
Researchers have known for several years that the Nanog protein was significant in the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. Now a team at the Institute for Stem Cell Research at the University of Edinburgh has shown that Nanog is a crucial element of reprogramming adult cells into some other type. According to an article on Forbes
from Health Day, the researchers used cell fusion technique on mouse cells, combining embryonic mouse stem cells with nerve-cell stem cells and with ordinary cells from the thymus
to create a hybrid cell. They found that when they genetically engineered the new cells to produce more Nanog, they had a 200 fold increase in the number of hybrid cells. The researchers emphasized that this is not the only piece of knowledge needed to be able to reprogram adult cells; other genes and their interactions with each other and with basic cell chemistry will need to be identified. The San Francisco Chronicle
also has an extensive article on this discovery. One of the scientists was quoted in this article as saying that it would take at least another year to understand how reprogramming works. It seems to me that the key next step is to see what happens when Nanog is manipulated in adult stem cells; if hybrid cells, which include embryonic stem cells, are necessary to the reprogramming, then there is no advantage over the use of straight embryonic stem cells on ethical grounds. I wonder if a culture of hybrid cells—essentially a bank—would still be objectionable; if the hybrids multiple through forty generations and the fortieth generation is what is used in therapy, would the root embryonic stem cell still cause a moral problem?