31 Oct Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
Stem cells have been a hot topic of conversation in the science and medical worlds for a long time. However, two of the biggest complications in the practical use of stem cells are the risk of rejection and ethical concerns about using embryonic stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells provide an answer to both of these concerns. Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult stem cells that have been reprogrammed to their embryonic-like state. These unique stem cells have opened a lot of doors in the medical field.
In the short amount of time, they have been around, induced pluripotent stem cells are already being used for drug development, modeling diseases, and have proven hopeful to be used for medicine transplantation. Viruses are used to implant the genetic modifications into adult cells, to turn them into induced pluripotent cells. While this has been developed in theory, there is still a significant amount of testing that needs to be conducted before it can be safely used on humans. The ability to induce adult stem cells to become pluripotent stem cells has major implications for the field of medicine. It means that in the future, scientists may have the ability to reprogram adult cells in a way that repairs damaged tissue in the body.
While research has shown that adult cells can be reprogrammed to induced pluripotent stem cells, there are still many challenges with the process. First off, the process is not very efficient. After the reprogramming process occurs, there are very few cells that are converted to pluripotent stem cells. Secondly, the use of viruses to genetically reprogram adult stem cells poses its own risk, such as activating cancer-causing genes. Lastly, incomplete programming is a very real risk.
Although challenges are preventing induced pluripotent stem cells from being widely used on humans today, there is still hope long term. One of the most important implications of induced pluripotent stem cells is the ability to regenerate damaged tissue from a single cell. Because induced pluripotent stem cells are able to replicate indefinitely, it is believed that a single cell could lead to the generation of a new organ in the body. Nowadays, the only way physicians can replace an entire organ is through organ transplantation. Once they are better understood, stem cells possess the ability to treat everything from spinal cord injury to stroke, to burns and rheumatoid arthritis.
Induced pluripotent stem cells have theoretically bridged the gap between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They offer solutions to both ethical and practical problems present in the use of adult and embryonic stem cells. While induced pluripotent stem cells do show significant promise in their healing properties, there is still significantly more research that needs to be conducted before they are ready to be used in humans. There is currently a large amount of funding behind better understanding stem cells, and specifically induced pluripotent stem cells. There is no doubt, that as medicine and science advance, we will see induced pluripotent stem cells being used to treat deteriorating tissues and organs. Induced pluripotent stem cells offer hope for the future.