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Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Research

(Stanford University - Jaclyn Chen)

- What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the body's raw material -- from these cells all other cells with specialized functions arise. Under the right conditions in the body or in the laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells, called daughter cells.

These daughter cells become new stem cells or specialized cells with more specific functions (differentiation), such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells, or bone cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.

Stem cells are specialized human cells capable of developing into many different cell types. This can range from muscle cells to brain cells. In some cases, they can also repair damaged tissue. Stem cell-based therapies could one day be used to treat serious diseases such as paralysis and Alzheimer's disease, researchers believe.


- Why are People So Interested in Stem Cells?

Researchers hope stem cell research can help:

  • Increased understanding of how disease occurs. By watching stem cells mature into cells in bone, heart muscle, nerves and other organs and tissues, researchers can better understand how diseases and conditions develop.
  • Generating healthy cells to replace those affected by disease (regenerative medicine). Stem cells can be directed to become specialized cells that can be used in the body to regenerate and repair damaged or disease-affected tissues.
  • People who may benefit from stem cell therapy include those with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, ALS, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer and osteoarthritis.
  • Stem cells may have the potential to grow into new tissue for use in transplantation and regenerative medicine. Researchers continue to advance the understanding of stem cells and their applications in transplantation and regenerative medicine.
  • Test the safety and effectiveness of new medicines. Researchers can use certain types of stem cells to test a drug's safety and quality before using it in humans. This type of testing is likely to have a direct impact on drug development for cardiotoxicity testing first.

New areas of research include using human stem cells that have been programmed to become tissue-specific cells to test the effectiveness of new drugs. To accurately test new drugs, cells must be programmed to take on the properties of the cell type the drug targets. Techniques to program cells into specific cells are under investigation. 

For example, nerve cells could be generated to test a new drug for a neurological disease. Tests can show whether new drugs have any effect on cells and whether cells are harmed. 


- Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine seeks to replace tissue or organs damaged by disease, trauma, or congenital problems, while current clinical strategies focus primarily on treating symptoms. The tools used to achieve these results include tissue engineering, cell therapy, and medical devices and artificial organs. 

A combination of these approaches can enhance our natural healing process where it is needed most, or take over the function of a permanently damaged organ. Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field that brings together experts in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, genetics, medicine, robotics and other fields to find solutions to some of the most challenging medical problems facing humanity Methods. 

When injured or struck by disease, our bodies respond instinctively to heal and defend. What if it was possible to harness the power of the body to heal and then accelerate it in a clinically relevant way? What if we could help the body heal better?  

Regenerative medicine holds great promise and works to restore the structure and function of damaged tissues and organs. It is also working to create solutions for permanently damaged organs. The goal of this approach is to find a way to heal injuries and diseases that were previously incurable.


[More to come ...]


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