The following comes from a Feb. 12 story on

After the ground-breaking news last week that Japanese scientists were able reprogram adult cells to embryonic-like cells in mice by simply bathing them in weak acid, the next step was to try this with human cells. The technique is called “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency”, or STAP.

With lightening speed, Dr. Charles Vacanti at Harvard Medical School has announced that they have created STAP human cells. New Scientist has the story:

Talk about speedy work. Hot on the heels of the news that simply dipping adult mouse cells in acid could turn them into cells with the potential to turn into any cell in the body, it appears that the same thing may have been done using human cells.

The picture above, given to New Scientist by Charles Vacanti at Harvard Medical School, is said to be images of the first human “STAP cell” experiments….

Now, Vacanti and his colleagues say they have taken human fibroblast cells and tested several environmental stressors on them in an attempt to recreate human STAP cells. He won’t reveal what type of stressors were applied but he says the resulting cells appears similar in form to the mouse STAP cells. His team is in the process of testing to see just how stem-cell-like these cells are.

The Independent also reports that more tests are needed to see if these stem cells are for real:

“The process was very similar to the one we used on mouse cells, but we used human dermal fibroblasts that we purchased commercially,” Dr Vacanti said. “I can confirm that stem cells were made when we treated these human cells. They do the same thing [as the mouse cells].

“They revert back to stem cells, and we believe the stem cells are not a contamination in the sample that we were inadvertently sent by the company, but that they are being made, although we still have to do the final tests to prove this,” he added.

Clearly this breakthrough has yet to be proven or published in a peer-review journal, but that does not mean that we should not be concerned.

Unlike induced pluripotent stem cell technology that uses a different method to reprogram adult cells, STAP, in mice, looks like it produces totipotent cells, not just pluripotent cells.

What is the difference? Pluripotent cells cannot become placenta and so could not implant and grow a new organism if placed in a uterus. Totipotent cells can become placenta and so are able to implant and grow into a fetus.

The only other place we find totipotent cells are directly after fertilization. In other words totipotent cells, are very early embryos….

“The word totipotent brings up all kinds of issues,” says Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Marlborough, Massachusetts. “If these cells are truly totipotent, and they are reproducible in humans then they can implant in a uterus and have the potential to be turned into a human being. At that point you’re entering into a right-to-life quagmire….”

To read the entire story, click here.