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How iPS cells changed the world
Induced pluripotent stem cells were supposed to herald a medical revolution. But ten years after their discovery, they are transforming biological research instead.

Megan Scudellari
15 June 2016

Ten years on, the goals have shifted — in part because those therapies have proved challenging to develop. The only clinical trial using iPS cells was halted in 2015 after just one person had received a treatment.

But iPS cells have made their mark in a different way. They have become an important tool for modelling and investigating human diseases, as well as for screening drugs. Improved ways of making the cells, along with gene-editing technologies, have turned iPS cells into a lab workhorse — providing an unlimited supply of once-inaccessible human tissues for research. This has been especially valuable in the fields of human development and neurological diseases, says Guo-li Ming, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been using iPS cells since 2006.

The field is still experiencing growing pains. As more and more labs adopt iPS cells, researchers struggle with consistency. “The greatest challenge is to get everyone on the same page with quality control,” says Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. “There are still papers coming out where people have done something remarkable with one cell line, and it turns out nobody else can do it,” she says. “We've got all the technology. We just need to have people use it right.”

記事の締めにある“There's no magic. With iPS cells or any new technology, it still takes a long time.”という部分は英語学習にも通じるものがあります。どんな画期的学習法があっても英語の実力をつけるには時間がかかるものですから。

The greatest future challenges, he says, are not scientific. Researchers are going to need strong support from the pharmaceutical industry and governments to move forward with cell therapies; for drug discovery and disease modelling, researchers must be persistent and patient. iPS cells can only shorten the discovery process, not skip it, he says. “There's no magic. With iPS cells or any new technology, it still takes a long time.”