In another ground breaking advance to the science of stem cell pluripotent modification a team of researchers has succeeded in inducing a cell to change into the earliest known embryonic state.
This is great news as it is exactly what would need to be possible so that full comparative analysis between different cell lines induced into creation can be had. Comparative analysis will then enable the key genes that differentiate different stem cell types for different tissues to be genetically characterized and once that happens the ability to point genetically shift cells from type to type (even post differentiation) will be possible.
The sequencing of any given genome gives one a book filled with words but no chapter titles or division labels. All the words being mashed together, such a book would be extremely difficult to read and more over extremely difficult to index.
When the humane genome project succeeded in 2000 it enabled us to understand what the words in the book were but it didn't give us the ability to understand where particular passages (expression instructions for various tissues and organs) and it didn't give us the ability to index to those locations so that we can read them.
In computing there is a direct analog, in object oriented programming classes of related code functions are created into modules and these modules are then extended in various ways to create new classes (subclasses). The biological model of stem cells works exactly the same way. The father of OO Alan Kay, may have been only partially influenced by the ideas of object orientation in biology as when he invented the concept biology and genetics were a brand new very primitive area but the common energy conservative methods in the two domains linked them in an interesting way. Collecting functions into chapters (cells) of various type and then managing how those cells develop over time in other instructions is a highly efficient means of storing and recalling pathway information to process the life cycle of a living organism. iPSC allows geneticists and molecular biologists to do with genetic code what computer programmers have been doing with binary code for several decades. This is one reason for my interest and excitement in these developments. This latest research seems to indicate that the "base class" or the super class as it is called in some OO languages for generating cells of different type has been found and thus making the way for extremely efficient comparative analysis that will unlock the mystery of development across a host of tissues and their associated disease and non disease states.
The revolution of iPSC (induced pluripotent stem cells) in 2007 set the stage for possibly reducing the computational cost of figuring out what the genetic code was saying, deciphering in other words how the code is organized into chapters and sections that describe the functional differentiation of various cell types, of the combination of those cell types into organs , of the execution of those processes into developmental cycles and growth cycles...in short the evolution of the life cycle of a living organism as described by the genetic sequence.
CrispR - Cas 9 be able to make in vivo genetic modifications in real time.
I've been writing about these trends for several years now and predicted the importance of comparative analysis to unlocking the full secrets of genetic sequences, in combination with the rapidly falling rate of sequencing whole genomes and even specific disease state genomes iPSC enabled diagnostics of tissue and cell lines will rapidly emerge an industry of exploration of all types of pathways for the eradication of disease states or the radical modification of existing states to effect changes as desired. I predicted these in a post from 2009 on the hypothetical life of Afusa O'Reilly but the future I prognosticated is coming to pass even at a more liberal pace than I'd originally predicted.
So what's next?
As this new technique is unleashed in the lab it will make it far easier for researchers to gain the comparative genetic expression pathways they need to make changes and understand disease states and that will lead to a massive industry of custom genetic adaptation. I've written on the idea of a "cosmecutical" industry to emerge from this very type of technology as the low hanging fruit that those looking to make money will pursue and that is what is on the plate now that these advanced diagnostic techniques are now feasible. Expect the next 10 years to mirror very closely the rapid rate of development of the software industry that we saw from the mid 70's to the mid 80's as the cost of the tools to generate computer code were rapidly falling and thus bringing what was a rare skill into the hands of suburban children who then in all their variety created the flowering of software that can be run on many types of computing devices world wide.
The biological analog will be the flowering of genetical modifications that we can perform to ourselves and other animal lines as well as even more advanced capabilities that couple synthetic biology to create entirely novel forms of life.
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2008/10/travel-in-genetically-enhanced-future.html (A hypothetical story of a super human on his way to a nearby star system)
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2009/09/coming-pathogenic-relief-impulse.html (I long arc on why the technology would lead to a sudden fall in mortality and lethality across pathogen enabled diseases, I also forecast the invitro meat industry)
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-many-cofactors-for-inducing.html (I predict a minimal set of operative cofactors for inducing pluripotency of all cell types and include the nanog gene that was used in this new research in that set)
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-future-is-not-you-choose-travel-in.html (Afusa's life (he's now over 300 years old) continues on...his genetic gifts still providing him more life and more happiness)
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2010/06/technology-will-it-kill-before-it-saves.html (A forecast of the most dangerous aspect of this technology the fact that it may lead to our end even as it promises us endless life.)
http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2010/07/accident-view-into-future-of-organ.html (Mira Chu , a hypothetical researcher has an accident...in this post I detail how these technologies will give rise to Organ Insurance banks and a thriving industry.)