Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are made from mature adult cells through a combination of genetic engineering and cell culture techniques. Because they are made from cells isolated from specific patients, they are patient-specific cells that can be used for drug testing, model experimental systems, and potentially cells for regenerative therapies.
Unfortunately, iPSCs are made in different laboratories that use different reagents and different protocols and with workers with different skill levels. Consequently, laboratory-made iPSC lines show a very wide range of variation that are not due to genetic differences in the cells from which they were made. Additionally, the production of iPSCs is labor intensive and expensive and there is a deep need to standardize the whole process. What are stem-cell scientists to do?
New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) has announced the development of a robot-driven apparatus that automates and completely standardizes the production of iPSCs. This modular, robotic platform for iPSC reprogramming enables automated, high-throughput conversion of cells isolated from skin biopsies into iPSCs and differentiated cells derived from them with minimal manual intervention. In a paper in the journal Nature Methods, NYSCF scientists in collaboration with bioengineers demonstrates that automated reprogramming of mature cells with this robotic platform (that uses pooled selection of pluripotent cells) results in high-quality, stable iPSC lines. These lines show less line-to-line variation than either manually produced iPSC lines or iPSC lines produced through automation followed by single-colony subcloning.
This robotic platform can potentially enable the application of iPSCs to population-scale biomedical problems including the study of complex genetic diseases and the development of personalized clinical treatments.