Scientists working with stem cells have made a major breakthrough which opens up the prospect of producing a 'self-repair' kit from a patient's own body.
Researchers in Japan have found a way to return mature cells taken from a patient's own healthy skin or blood to their original embryonic state by bathing them in a bath of weak citric acid for just half an hour.
The procedure could allow scientists to achieve the holy grail of "personalised medicine", where a patient's own healthy skin or blood cells can be used to repair damaged tissues, such as heart disease or brain injury, without risk of tissue rejection.
The stunning breakthrough has been made by a young Japanese researcher who could not at first believe her own results.
And it could have immediate impact on stem cell research here. Professor Sanbing Shen of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway said the discovery was a major breakthrough for science.
"It is such a simple thing but it has such a major impact. If we can do this it will make stem cell therapy much more accessible," he said.
He said the institute would put the methods into practice immediately using human cells instead of mice.
"At the moment this experiment has only been tried on mice. We will implement it immediately, testing it on human cells. A lot of treatments in mice will not necessarily have the same effect on humans but we will begin the experiments immediately," he added.