Differentiation of iPS Cells in Comparison with Human Embryonic Stem Cells

The controversy of human embryonic stem cell research forced the regenerative science into further research of the iPS cells which are thought to have the same potentials as embryonic stem cells derived from the unused human embryos. However, a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 15 in 2010 has shown otherwise. The professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public health and senior author of the study, Su-Chun Zhang said that differentiation of the iPS cells was less efficient than of human embryonic stem cells and that the iPS cells are less predictable than the controversial embryonic stem cells which can differentiate into all 220 human cell types.

Su-Chin Zhang and his team led by Baoyang Hu have conducted a comparison study using five embryonic cell lines and twelve iPS cell lines to determine the capability of differentiation of both cell lines into the brain cells. The team has discovered that the differentiation of iPS cells was less efficient than embryonic cell differentiation due to unknown factors which might limit the use of iPS cells for both the study of human diseases and therapeutic purposes such as transplantation of the cells. However, the researchers have also discovered that genes do not affect the ability of the iPS cells to differentiate as it was expected. Presence and absence of genetic factors have been shown not to affect the differentiation ability of the iPS cells. For that reason Zhang’s team believes that the technology used for generation of iPS cells requires further improvements.

The study has shown that further research is necessary to determine why differentiation of iPS cells is different and unpredictable. But the iPS cells remain very useful for many applications including testing of potential treatments and new drugs.