Singapore scientists create stem cells from a drop of blood

SINGAPORE - Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood.

Matured human cells, usually blood cells, can be transformed into hiPSCs using genetic reprogramming. As hiPSCs exhibit properties similar to human embryonic stem cells, they can be used for basic research, drug discovery and cell therapy.

In countries like Japan, USA and UK, a number of hiPSC bank initiatives have sprung up to make hiPSCs available for stem cell research and medical studies.

Current sample collection for creating hiPSCs include invasive measures such as collecting cells from the bone marrow or skin - a process which may put off many potential donors.

Although hiPSCs may also be generated from blood cells, large quantities of blood are usually required.

In the paper published online on the Stem Cell Translational Medicine journal, scientists at IMCB showed for the first time that a single-drop of blood is sufficient for creating hiPSCs.

The finger-prick technique is the world's first to use only a drop of finger-pricked blood to yield hiPSCs with high efficiency. A patent has been filed for the innovation.

The method also enables donors to collect their own blood samples, which they can then send to a laboratory for further processing. The blood sample remains stable for 48 hours and can be expanded for 12 days in culture.

This extends the finger-prick technique to a wide range of geographical regions, for the recruitment of donors with varied ethnicities, genotypes and diseases.

The easy access to blood samples using the new technique could potentially lead to the establishment of large-scale hiPSC banks.

The potential access to a wide range of hiPSCs could replace the use of embryonic stem cells, which are less accessible. It could also facilitate the set-up of a small hiPSC bank in Singapore to study targeted local diseases, the researchers said.