One of the biggest holy grails in biology involves finding a means to generate pluripotent and infinitely replicating stem cells without generating an embryo. One Japanese team presented some potent clues last night at the linkurl:Keystone conference; on stem cell biology -- but stem cell researchers will need a few more bread crumbs before they can put this potentially exciting information to use. linkurl:Shinya Yamanaka; from Kyoto University and the Japan Science and Technology Agency presented a series of experiments designed to identify key reprogramming factors that convert a somatic cell into an embryonic one. Starting from a list of 100 proto-oncogenes and embryonic stem (ES) cell associated transcripts, or ECATs, he and his co-author winnowed the list to 24, then 10, then 4; all, when combined, appeared to induce pluripotency in murine embryonic MEF cells. (Below four factors, the authors were unable to obtain seemingly viable colonies.) The four...

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