A joint Korean research team headed by Prof. Park Se-phil from the Stem Cell Research Center at Jeju National University and Kim Eun-young from Mirae Cell Bio announced on Jan. 19 that they have successfully developed a technology to make induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from skin, without using eggs. The technique has already been patented in the country.
The research team used a method of effecting de-differentiation, which makes primordial cells like embryonic stem cells from fully-grown skin cells. After removing human skin cells, they injected four specific genes - Oct4, Nanog, Sox2, and Lin28 - to create the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. As for a vector that delivers genetic material to another cell, a lentivirus was used. They filed a patent for this technique at home and abroad in 2008.
The technology to produce iPSCs using a de-differentiation method was first developed by a research team led by Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University, in 2007. In 2012, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that adult somatic cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells. In 2008, they filed for a patent for this method in Korea, which was granted by the Korean Intellectual Property Office in 2011.
The research team explains that the newly-patented technique for iPSCs is better than Yamanaka's method. Therefore, they could be ahead in research for commercialization of iPSCs.
Prof. Park remarked, “We induced cells not to stick to the bottom and injected genes into somatic cells. As a result, our technique is 5.1 times as efficient as Yamanaka's method.” He concluded by saying, “Our technique was patented in the country 7 years after we filed for a patent. So, I think that it will have a positive effect on the ongoing deliberation on our patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.”