3 Feb 2009

Stem cells produced from adult cells in Australia

1:35 pm on 3 February 2009

Australian scientists have produced a stem cell from an adult skin cell - the first time this has been done in Australia.

A joint Victorian and New South Wales team has produced the nation's first human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell line.

The cell acts like an embryonic stem cell but is instead made from an adult skin cell.

The technique allows scientists to continue their work to better understand crippling illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease without the ethical problems raised by stem cells taken from human embryos that are later destroyed.

Dr Paul Verma, the programme leader for stem cell biology at the Monash Institute of Medical Research, said Australian institutes had previously relied on importing iPS stem cell lines from the United States or Japan.

Stem cells are hailed as the new frontier in medical research and the treatment of disease, given their remarkable ability to develop into many different cell types in the body.

Future work in Australia includes creating iPS cells from an adult with Type 1 diabetes, with the results expected to provide new insights into how the illness progresses.

Similar work is also hoped to point to possible new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cancers, heart disease and spinal cord injury.

The New South Wales and Victorian governments contributed $A455,000 to the $A1 million project, with the remainder coming from Sydney IVF Limited and the Australian Stem Cell Centre.