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Stem Cells May Make Many Lifesaving Treatments Possible

Researchers reported on the new ability to reprogram adult human skin cells a little more than two years ago. This remarkable breakthrough has led to great excitement and anticipation, as well as ongoing investigations to help make regenerative medicine a reality. Important new developments are being published almost every month and the field is moving very fast.

Up until very recently, everyone knew that adult cells had permanently lost their ability to return to a primitive state, i.e., lost their ability to transform into any other kind of cell. Everyone knew that once a cell differentiated into a particular lineage and cell type, that was it. For example, adult bone marrow cells retain a multipotent ability. Throughout life, these cells transform into red blood cells, platelets, and many types of white blood cells.

But this understanding has been shown to be insufficient. In fact, adult bone marrow cells have more than multipotent abilities. They are able to transform into brain cells under the right conditions, and may eventually be proved to be pluripotent. You can get more information on stem cells and regenerative medicine via

Throughout the 20th century, schoolchildren, high schoolers, and college students learned that cellular differentiation is a permanent event. In 2007 visionary scientists proved that this well-known fact was incorrect. Adult human cells, specifically skin cells, are able to be reprogrammed back to an initial state. Reprogramming returned to these cells the ability to differentiate into any other kind of cell.

It's so easy to leap ahead and consider what might become possible. Healthy cells, tissues, and organs – tailored to a specific person – might be produced from a simple skin biopsy. Cures might become available for devastating diseases. Many people around the world might be helped to live longer, healthier lives. But much knowledge remains to be acquired and many genetic, immunologic, and biochemical challenges will need to be overcome before the first treatment for any disease is actually delivered to a patient.