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 »
Tags: human embryos and stem cells, stem cell research, stem cell therapy, stem cells, stem cells from embryos
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Now that the Molecular Med Tri-Con 2011 has ended and attendees are back at their offices, labs, practices, and/or hospitals – or perhaps have landed at their next business meeting or conference destination – it’s a good time to reflect on some of my general observations from the event.
The conference covered so much information that it would be impossible to review every topic. Following are a few areas that captured my attention and remain in my thoughts:
- STEM CELLS – There was a lot of focus on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), in particular how to better characterize and understand those cells. Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate, or change, to become any one of the many types of cells that make up an organism. These cells are already being used for applications such as drug testing and drug screening. Once they are induced to re-differentiate, iPSC can provide good models for disease: what some conference speakers referred to as a “disease in a dish.” Some discussion among presenters focused on the idea of isolating cells from patients, producing iPSC, and then reintroducing the produced cells into the patient to replace cells that have been damaged or lost as a result of disease – an elegant form of cell-based therapy. Although widespread use of this approach is likely a ways off, I’m both optimistic of the therapeutic potential and somewhat cautious because of regulatory hurdles and potential safety issues (including some data showing tumor production in animals). Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: circulating tumor cells (CTC), DNA sequencing, gordon e. moore, informatics, intel, ion torrent, life technologies, molecular med tri-con 2011, moore's law, personal genomics, stem cells
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