Menus Subscribe Search

Working Mice Spun From Skin Cells

• July 25, 2009 • 12:25 AM

In demonstrating that embryonic stem cells may not be the experimental bottleneck as they are often seen, researchers have created live mice from mouse skin.

Embryonic cells are no longer the only cells that can produce live offspring. Two separate Chinese research teams reported this week that they have been able to reprogram skin tissue cells of mice into an embryonic-like state.

The cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, were first produced in 2006 by a Japanese research team from Kyoto University. They have long been theorized to have pluripotent abilities (the potential to differentiate into any cell type in the body except placenta) that could be used in future degenerative and genetic disease treatment. But until now scientists have been unable to use the cells to produce live offspring and, as a result, show they are as versatile as embryonic stem cells.

The two studies, one published online in the journal Nature, the other in Cell Stem Cell, followed similar protocols.

To create the iPS cells, the teams used viral vectors to introduce four particular stem cell genes into mice fibroblast cells (the cells that create connective tissues in the body). From there the teams embedded the iPS cells into “tetraploid” embryos, which normally only develop external supportive tissues like placenta on their own, and not an actual offspring. Afterwards, the now complete embryos were implanted into surrogate mothers, and the scientists waited to see if viable infant mice developed.

According to their Cell Stem Cell article, it took the research team led by Lan Kang of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College some 187 iPS cell embryos to produce a single live mouse offspring. But skin cells harvested from pups that died shortly after cesarean section deliveries did produce more efficient iPS cells that were more likely to create viable embryos.

The researchers who published in Nature were able to produce 22 live offspring from 624 embryos, but observed relatively high death and physical abnormality rates in the infant mice. They were, however, able to mate 12 of the surviving offspring, and found that none of the second generation of mice had any abnormalities or tumors. While the sample size is still relatively small, this later result is important because some scientists fear the use of viral vectors in iPS cell production increase rates of cancer because the virus leaves its own DNA in the cell when inserting the stem cell genes.

While the results of these studies suggest a new avenue for stem cell research that side steps the ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cell harvesting, both sets of authors are quick to downplay the results as evidence that iPS cell research could soon be applied to humans.

“Although these findings are an important proof of principle,” said the Kang group in their study, “It would be premature to make claims based on them about whether iPS cells in general are functionally equivalent to normal embryonic stem cells as we have only identified one iPSC line that possesses this capacity (in mice) and the process is still very inefficient.”

“It may be more complicated than what the current model will accommodate.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Are you on Facebook? Become our fan.

Follow us on Twitter.

Add our news to your site.

Julia Griffin
Julia Griffin is a master's candidate in environmental science and management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A fellow at the Miller-McCune Center in 2009, before that she worked as a film researcher for John-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Future Society and a producer/writer in CNN's Science and Technology Unit. She has a degree in marine biology from Duke University, and hopes to pursue a career in science and environmental journalism.

More From Julia Griffin

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.