Cited research Cell Stem Cell 7, 11–14 (2010); Cell Stem Cell 7, 15–19 (2010); Cell Stem Cell 7, 20–24 (2010)

Obtaining human cells to reprogram into stem cells could one day be as easy as visiting a blood bank.

Adult cells can be reprogrammed in culture to become stem cells that can develop into any tissue. A goal of stem-cell research has been to develop such cells using a patient's own tissues. Specialized immune cells from the blood had previously been reprogrammed, but these are costly and cumbersome to isolate.

Now, three groups — led by George Daley at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Keiichi Fukuda at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan — report the production of reprogrammed cells, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, using white blood cells that are easily obtained from blood samples.

The teams used a virus to insert four genes needed to convert cells to iPS cells. They also boosted the efficiency with which the virus infects blood cells. Although the efficiency was still relatively low, the stem cells generated from blood looked and behaved like iPS cells derived from other sources. H.L.