One of the greatest concerns regarding the use of induced pluripotent stem cells in humans is that could there be a potential cancer risk when transplanting them into humans? In other words, can iPSCs lead to cancer?

Induced pluripotent stem cells have been known to have the ability to not only create a lot of copies of themselves but they can also turn into whatever cell that is inside the body.

The FDA actually approved the use of these specialized cells for clinical trials, but this is also the reason why a lot of people are expressing their concerns about them. Could patients who receive iPSC transplants have an increased risk of developing cancer? Well, according to a couple of studies, that is less likely.

Jeanne Loring, who was the co-author of the study involving the use of iPSCs in clinical trials, she said that the use of these cells in humans have attracted a lot of controversies and concerns. Even though they may potentially lead to cancer, the fears and concerns are not entirely based on science.

People expressed their concerns that when transplanting the stem cells, that something might go wrong that would lead to the formation of tumors. However, Loring said that she and her team, upon looking into the matter with studies, they were not able to find any mutations at all and certainly one that would lead to cancer.

The Study

Technically, turning induced pluripotent stem cells into whatever cell that is required by the patient is known as cell programming, Loring and her team want to assess if there is any risk involved, especially with regards to mutations, that may arise because of it.

To do this, they’ve created nine cell lines that were completely made by induced pluripotent stem cells from human fibroblasts. This is done by using 3 different cell reprogrammers- non-integrating Sendai virus, retroviral vectors, and synthetic messenger RNAs or mRNAs for short.

They also programmed the genomes of the said cells to identify any differences in genetic makeup such as insertions, DNA deletions, and single-nucleotide variants.

What she and her team discovered was that even though the iPSCs did contain some genetic sequences that were originally not found in the parent fibroblasts, the number of differences between the parent cells and the stem cells were insignificant. Loring also added that if any mutations were to occur, they are more likely harmless and should not be a cause for concern.

Although the fear of getting cell mutations is fine, Loring states that our cells are pretty diverse and so are the stem cells. Even if the potential of mutations is there, it can be considered perfectly normal and oftentimes harmless.