NEW YORK — A simple lab treatment can turn ordinary cells from mice into stem cells, according to a surprising study that hints at a possible new way to grow tissue for treating illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
Researchers in Boston and Japan exposed cells from spleens of newborn mice to a more acidic environment than they're used to. In lab tests, that turned them into stem cells showing enough versatility to produce the tissues of a mouse embryo, for example.
Cells from skin, muscle, fat and other tissue of newborn mice appeared to go through the same change, which could be triggered by exposing cells to any of a variety of stressful situations, researchers said.
Scientists hope to harness stem cells to replace defective tissue in a wide variety of diseases.
"It's very simple to do. I think you could do this actually in a college lab," said Dr. Charles Vacanti of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, an author of two papers published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.