10 Jan Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
Stem cell and regenerative medicine research have developed new therapeutic strategies that create hope and new possibilities for patients with injuries and disease. Scientists have been able to take any cell in the body and turn it into an embryonic cell with the ability to regenerate into any other cell in the body.
The induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are generally taken from the skin or blood and reprogrammed for specific uses within the human body. They can be programmed to treat (to name a few):
- replace cancer cells in Leukemia
- repair neural damage
The embryonic stem cells have limitless potential and could prove to be a source of immune-compatible cells for tissue regeneration and transplants. However, there are terms used to differentiate cells. These terms include:
- Stem cells
- embryonic cells
- pluripotent stem cells
- iPS cells
- adult cells
- cancer cells
Each definition is different based on cell capabilities and/or location. A basic definition is provided as follows:
- Stem cells: all stem cells, divide and can make identical copies of themselves. They can also divide to form cells that can mature for every type of tissue or organ in the body.
- Pluripotent: have the ability to take on the fate of more than 200 different types of cells.
- Embryonic stem cells: are pluripotent just like iPSC that have been reprogrammed. The two terms are often used interchangeably. They die after five days of development (in humans). When acquired from an embryo these cells can divide indefinitely.
- Adult stem cells: are found in various tissues and organs. Generally, committed to becoming a cell wherever it is located. This occurs for natural regeneration or due to damage in the specific organ. For example, Liver cells grow up to be liver cells. These cells cannot grow indefinitely in the lab.
- IPS cells: are taken from any tissue (usually skin or blood) of a child or adult. It is genetically modified to embryonic stem cells. They have the ability to form all types of cells.
- Cancer stem cells: are a variety of cancer cells that can renew like stem cells. However, they tend to grow into cancer cells found in tumors rather than human tissues and organs. They show potential for more effective cancer therapies against resistant tumors. Chemotherapy only destroys the cells that form the tumor and stem cells remain intact and can cause a tumor again. Researchers continue to look for therapies to kill off cancer stem cells in the battle to eradicate a patient’s cancer.
People tend to think of this as a stem cell transplant but, embryonic cells are first specialized to the needed adult cell type. The mature cells then replace damaged or injured tissues; however, iPSC could potentially be used to :
- replace cells damaged by a spinal injury, stroke, diseases, or neurological conditions
- Produce insulin in the treatment of diabetes
- replace heart cells damaged by a heart attack
- the potential is to be able to replace any tissue or organ that has become diseased or injured.
iPSC cells are on the leading edge of research today and could prove to be a solution to many disease conditions and injuries. Although new and still experimental, there are several additional factors to be considered including patient rights, ethics and a myriad of government policies and rules to be established.