October 20th, 2011
Posted by Shane Climie, Ph.D.
In a recent paper that spawned news articles and blogs worldwide, researchers announced the generation of human embryos that could produce stem cells. The announcement marks another step in the use of stem cells to treat a number of disorders, including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease. But while this research, conducted by Dieter Egli, Scott Noggle, and their colleagues at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, holds much promise, it also demonstrates the daunting obstacles that block the path to stem cell therapy.
The biggest technical obstacle to stem cell therapy has been generating and isolating enough early-stage stem cells. It is these cells that have the greatest developmental potential because they can most readily differentiate into a mature cell that, in turn, could be used for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
The discovery that adult cells could be “reprogrammed” into inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) offered promises of stem cell therapy while sidestepping ethical issues arising from embryonic stem cell therapies. However, iPSCs presented technical issues that so far preclude their therapeutic potential. Bone marrow, cord blood, and adipose tissue also produce stem cells, but on an extremely limited basis.
Read the rest of this entry »