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A team of Boston and Japanese researchers stunned the scientific world Wednesday by revealing a remarkably simple and unexpected way to create stem cells that can become any of the diverse cell types in the body.
The secret? Just bathe mature cells in acid for half an hour. The result is “shocking,” “astounding,” “revolutionary,” and “weird,” said scientists not accustomed to using such exuberant words to describe research findings.
Now a study shows that shocking blood cells with acid could also trigger the transformation into stem cells - this time termed STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells.
Dr Haruko Obokata, from the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan, said she was "really surprised" that cells could respond to their environment in this way.
She added: "It's exciting to think about the new possibilities these findings offer us, not only in regenerative medicine, but cancer as well."
This new discovery not only means that we can produce stem cells cheaply and quickly but also potentially cut through the ethical debate, because no embryos would be harmed. If it works in humans, that is. Of course, there's plenty more research to be done before scientists can fully understand the process and develop methods for stem cell research. But hot damn, this is good news.