Tsinghua School of Pharmacy Ding Sheng team released breakthrough research results: non-germ cells may produce life

  Ding Sheng's team from the School of Pharmacy, Tsinghua University found that chemical drugs composed of three small molecules can induce and culture mouse totipotent stem cells in a targeted manner, proving the possibility of generating mouse totipotent stem cells from non-germ cells in vitro to generate life.

This research result was published in the world's top academic journal "Nature" on June 21, and attracted attention.

  Regarding the results of this research, the official WeChat account of Tsinghua University pointed out, "In the future, not only the hairs on Sun Wukong's body in the novel, but also any somatic cells in animals, such as blood and skin, can be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells, and then' After taking medicines, they become totipotent stem cells that can independently form life."

  How was the research result discovered, what significance does it have, and what application scenarios will it have in the future?

On these issues, the reporter talked to Ding Sheng, Dean of the School of Pharmacy of Tsinghua University and Director of the Global Health Drug Research and Development Center.

Ding Sheng told reporters that this research result can realize the induction and stable culture of totipotent stem cells, which is only the first step to open the door of "vellus hair to monkey". process, "hope to do more work around the starting point where life came into being."

  Talk about the significance of research

  The most important significance is to realize the induction and stable culture of totipotent stem cells

  Beijing News: In your opinion, what is the greatest significance of this study?

  Ding Sheng: Prior to this, totipotent stem cells were produced through germ cells. Such a path is a naturally occurring and evolved system.

How to generate totipotent stem cells without going through such a path?

I think the most important significance of this research is to realize the induction and stable culture of totipotent stem cells.

This is an important step, and you can use it as a starting point for more research.

  Beijing News: With this research result as the basis, what will the future research direction be?

  Ding Sheng: From our point of view, we need to understand this starting point and study the process of life generation through the operation of this starting point.

I think this is where we should focus.

  Everyone is usually familiar with the concepts of regenerative medicine and the repair of tissues and organs. These are the application scenarios that have been easily accessed and easily imagined by everyone in the past few decades.

I think this part will be done by someone, and there will definitely be considerable progress, and it will also have its meaning.

But as far as our team is concerned, we still want to do more work around the birth of life and this starting point.

  Beijing News: Where will the application of this research be reflected?

  Ding Sheng: Like the gene editing technology a few years ago, its application scenarios are actually very many, and many application scenarios that appeared later were not imagined at that time, or could be realized at that time.

It is difficult to define what such a groundbreaking study can do at an early stage, which requires the imagination of people in the relevant fields of the entire scientific community.

  I can only give one or two examples of application scenarios.

The simplest application is to study the characteristics, differentiation and advantages of this kind of totipotent stem cells compared to pluripotent stem cells in terms of being manipulated, gene edited, and differentiated into specific cells.

This is the easiest and completely achievable.

  Beijing News: How is this research different from cloning technology?

  Ding Sheng: Cloning technology requires germ cells and eggs, and the technology itself is relatively difficult and not easy to use.

  Beijing News: Will there be scientific ethics issues?

  Ding Sheng: I think it is natural to have discussions on ethics.

Ethics is based on human cognition and practice, and it has boundaries.

When the boundaries of science and technology and what is truly achievable are breached, there will definitely be related ethical issues involved.

In human society, such a scene is constantly appearing, that is, when your cognition and your ability break through the boundary, it will involve relevant ethical issues.

Ethical boundaries are not constant, and of course some core values ​​have been maintained for thousands of years.

  First of all, our current work does not involve ethical issues, because it does not involve practical operation.

If ethical issues are involved in the future, there will also be norms.

There has never been a lack of discussions on ethical issues in the field of stem cells. How to judge and how to do scientific research under the framework of ethics has considerable experience in this field.

  Talk about the research process

  A lot of breakthroughs are needed to achieve "vell hair to monkey"

  Beijing News: What is the key to successfully researching this result?

  Ding Sheng: First, it is necessary to accumulate experience, which is necessary, and there must be enough experience, sufficient ability, and sufficient cognition; the second is to have investment, which requires time, resources, and human input; third, There must be so-called luck.

The three-point focus collision will produce such a result.

  Beijing News: It took six years to make such a breakthrough in the field of stem cells. Is it long or short?

  Ding Sheng: I personally think it is short, and it is normal for such research to not yield results in 20 or 30 years.

Because breakthrough scientific discoveries have a high degree of uncertainty, it is impossible to predict where the problem will be and when it will be discovered.

Of course, there is an improvement in cognition in the middle. Because of continuous attempts and verification of scientific hypotheses, we will find that the previous cognition is limited, and we will continue to revise it.

But how far it is from reality is actually unknown.

It's not an incremental problem, it's a breakthrough problem, and it can't be predicted.

  The Beijing News: The official WeChat account of Tsinghua University mentioned "vell hair turning into a monkey". Will this study really be able to achieve "veil hair turning into a monkey"?

  Sheng Ding: This research is just a starting point, the first step to open the door.

In the future, from lower animals to higher animals, there will be a series of studies.

  Pulling out a hair to become an individual is a very vivid and very close understanding of Chinese culture, but to realize such a scene, many breakthroughs need to be achieved in the middle. We need to test and try some rules, which takes a lot of time. .

  Beijing News: Some people on the Internet say that this research result is Nobel Prize-level. What do you think?

  Ding Sheng: I personally think we don't make expectations or make comments.

Such a major discovery will stand the test of time.

Once a major discovery is made, many people will do it in the follow-up application and cognition.

There must be many people who use it, recognize it, and promote it, so that they can further imagine how it is recognized.

  I certainly think it's a big, groundbreaking discovery that will really enable us and people in the field to do a lot of things, and the importance is definitely there.

The core of not winning an award is whether the research is indeed a useful and valuable discovery, but whether it can be won in the end, there are also non-objective variables and factors, including time.

  Personally, I don't think it's necessary to do too much self-imagination, especially at such an early breakout stage.

We have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to achieve our research goals.

  talk about scientific research

  Research must focus on goals

  Beijing News: What is China's current stem cell research like?

  Ding Sheng: China attaches great importance to the field of stem cells. The Ministry of Science and Technology made stem cells a major national project 15 to 20 years ago.

In the past, among the five major projects in the country, stem cells were one of them. China's investment in this field is relatively large.

With the accumulation of the past 10 or 20 years and the introduction of talents from overseas, China's stem cell research is considered a leader in the world.

  Beijing News: You have been doing research in this field since 2003. Why did you want to enter this field?

  Ding Sheng: I first did chemical synthesis, which is simply to create some molecules.

The use of these molecules that I created was a question that I was thinking about at the time, such as how to achieve cell regulation and regeneration through molecules.

  Of course, regeneration is not a new problem. Many people and masters in the field of biology have studied such a problem more than 100 years ago.

This unsolved, scientifically imaginative field appealed to me, and that's why I entered such a field.

  Beijing News: You studied abroad for many years before, why did you want to return to China for development?

  Ding Sheng: Previously, I mainly focused on basic scientific research, scientific discovery and achievement transformation. This is the aspect I focused on before returning to China.

  When I came to Tsinghua University in 2014, one of the questions I was thinking about was how to realize value in addition to scientific research and transformation.

An effective way is to empower others, so that others have the conditions and ability to do the same thing, because what I can do myself is limited after all.

  Creating an academy and creating some systems and mechanisms in the process is an effective and reasonable path to achieve this goal.

  Beijing News: After returning to China to establish a pharmacy school, your identity has become a manager. How do you balance these roles?

  Ding Sheng: I think balance is one aspect, but after returning to China, my main energy is to focus on the establishment and management of the system, because my purpose and responsibility after returning to China is not to do scientific research.

  I am interested in scientific research and have been doing it all the time, but my positioning and goals are different. My goal is to focus more on the management of the college and the exploration of mechanisms and systems.

  We can't say how much energy there is, but there are different focuses at different stages.

From the point of view of achieving goals, it is unrealistic to divide time and energy completely evenly, and it should not be.

  The same is true for scientific research. We must focus on scientific research goals. If we do all of them, we will not be able to do any of them well, and it will become a speculative approach.

You have to focus on investing in order to achieve big goals.

  Beijing News reporter Qi Xin