Creating Stem Cells Without Worries of Cancer

Professor KIM Hyo-Soo, Professor KWON Yoo-Wook
Professor KIM Hyo-Soo, Professor KWON Yoo-Wook

Professor KIM Hyo-Soo (Department of Molecular Medicine and Biopharmaceutical Sciences, Seoul National University) and KWON Yoo-Wook (National Research Laboratory for Stem Cell Niche, Seoul National University College of Medicine) have developed a new way to make induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) which do not carry any risk of causing cancer. This new method is also much more efficient compared to existing techniques devised by Yamanaka who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012.

Yamanaka and his research team first generated pluripotent stem cells by injecting specific genes into somatic cells extracted from patients and discovered that they had the potential to develop into any type of cells or tissue. Through further research, however, it was revealed that one type of genes (c-Myc) within pluripotent stem cells might cause cancer. Because of this limitation, it was difficult to conduct feasibility studies using human subjects.

To overcome these limitations, Professors KIM and KWON developed a new way to create pluripotent stem cells using the proteins incubated from embryonic stem cells not containing carcinogenic genes. Consequently these pluripotent stem cells do not carry any risk of inducing cancer or cell malfunction.

They also discovered how to enhance the efficiency of producing induced pluripotent stem cells by using proteins extracted from other pluripotent stem cells and a key substance which is called ‘Zscan4’ that increases the production speed by 1,000%.

“This research has significant implications in that this development can help advance the time of commercialization and feasibility testing on human subjects of induced pluripotent stem cells by solving two big problems -- carcinogenesis and low productivity,” said Professor KIM.

Written by CHUNG Taejoong, SNU English Editor,
Proofread by Melora Brett Briana Johnson,