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The Promise of Peripheral Blood Cells in Saving Lives

Dec 19, 2013 9:30:56 AM / by Maria

Techniques for cellular reprogramming of peripheral blood cells are expanding and many investigators are shifting their focus away from skin into blood. Read part I of a series of posts about cellular reprogramming of peripheral blood cells. 

iPS cells can be generated from peripheral blood cells iPS cells can be generated from peripheral blood cells
Image credit: Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 9, 725-729

The promise of cellular therapy and regenerative medicine for diseases is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the disadvantages and limitations of using stem cells had severely hindered progress in development of such treatments for many years until induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) became a reality. The successful cellular reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iPSCs has poised the field for significant medical advances.

The source for somatic cells is often fibroblasts, which have been researched extensively in the past decade for their ability to be reprogrammed.  However, they may not be the ideal choice of cells.  Human primary fibroblasts are obtained through non-sterile, invasive skin biopsies and then need to be expanded before experimentation for 2-3 weeks. As the outer layer of our body, these skin cells also may have already developed mutations from environmental factors such as UV radiation during sun exposure.

Peripheral blood cells provide an ideal source for cellular reprogramming.  Nucleated peripheral blood cells include monocytes, T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and as well as additional progenitor cells.  Stem cell biology has been pioneered by characterizing the many cell types available and their potential to be directed in varying ways.   An example of directed hematopoietic programming is demonstrated in this study where they differentiated peripheral mononuclear blood cells into T cells to examine how the T cells are activated.  

Techniques have been established to collect or enrich for certain cells in the peripheral blood and methods have been established previously to expand primary progenitor cells and mature T cells, which are two of the most successful sources for cell reprogramming. T cells make up 20-30% of peripheral blood and have been effectively reprogrammed into pluripotent cells by many different groups. Blood progenitors come with a complete genome, unlike mature T and B cells, and they can be cultured under specific conditions to favor expansion into myeloid or erythroid cells. HemaCare offers a variety of blood products that are quality controlled and ready to use for iPSC induction.  

The field is anxious to explore the many possibilities in the future.  To learn more about the current techniques for and applications of cellular reprogramming of peripheral blood cells, stay tuned for Part II that will outline the factors required for iPSC induction and Part III that will address the future outlook for this technology.


Zhang, Xiao-Bing. Cellular Reprogramming of Human Peripheral Blood Cells. Genomics, Proteomics & Bioinformatics 11.5 (2013): 264-274.

Topics: cellular reprogramming, iPSCs, Stem Cells, Basic Research


Written by Maria

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