Largest UK resource of human stem cells created

Scientists have created the UK’s largest resource of human stem cells from healthy people. This is a powerful research tool for studying human development and disease.

Fluorescence light micrograph of neural stem cells.

Credit: Daniel Schroen/SPL

Fluorescence light micrograph of neural stem cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Researchers generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) on a large scale to study cell differences between individuals.

These cells have huge scientific potential for studying the development and impact of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.  They could also be used to study the effects of common genetic variants, but a very large sample of iPSCs is needed to do this.

To create iPSCs, adult cells are taken from individuals and then returned to an early embryonic state using specific growth conditions. This Nobel Prize-winning technology allows these cells to develop into every other cell type in the human body.

The researchers created 711 cell lines and generated detailed information about their genome, the proteins expressed and their cell biology.  

iPSCs are incredibly difficult to create and few laboratories have the facilities to characterise their cells in a way that makes them useful for other scientists to use.

The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative (HipSci) involves researchers from:

  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • King’s College London
  • European Bioinformatics Institute
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Cambridge.

This large reference set of human iPSCs and the accompanying data is openly available to the research community and can be used to study human development and disease.

"This is the fantastic result of many years of work to create a national resource of high-quality, well-characterised human induced pluripotent stem cells," says Dr Michael Dunn, Wellcome’s Head of Genetics and Molecular Sciences. "This has been a significant achievement made possible by the collaboration of researchers across the country with joint funding provided by Wellcome and the MRC.

"It will help to provide the knowledge base to underpin a huge amount of future research into the effects of our genes on health and disease. By ensuring this resource is openly available to all, we hope that it will pave the way for many more fascinating discoveries."

More information

This research is published in Nature.

You can read more about it in the Sanger Institute press release.