Adult stem cells can apparently do everything embryonic stem cells can – and they are moving regenerative medicine forward faster, with more results.  Since the use of human embryos for research is ethically repugnant to many people, what motivations remain to continue the practice?  Here is a rapid-fire list of stem cell news this month:

  1. Are embryonic and adult stem cells equal?:  “Ever since human induced pluripotent stem cells were first derived in 2007, scientists have wondered whether they were functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells, which are sourced in early-stage embryos.”  The answer is: yes, they are.  Science Daily reported that a study published today at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that the protein products produced by the two sources of stem cells are 99% identical.  Repeated runs show the statistics are extremely robust; in fact, some of the products from embryonic stem cells more closely resembled those from induced pluripotent stem cells than they did from other embryonics, so any differences in that last 1% may be statistical noise.
  2. Endless supply:  Understanding the self-renewal process of adult stem cells was explained on PhysOrg.  “The promise of stem cells is two-fold: On one hand, they can differentiate into all the specialised cells in the tissues of the body and thereby guarantee tissue repair; on the other hand, they can self-renew and form new stem cells ensuring -at least in theory- an inexhaustible supply of cells in demand.”  The new finding is that “Scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) are the first to establish a direct link between a conserved stem cell factor and the cell cycle regulation in adult stem cells.”
  3. Exercise:  Stem cell science is not just academic or about invalids.  You can steer your internal stem cells, PhysOrg said.  Research at McMaster University showed, “Exercise boosts health by influencing stem cells to become bone, not fat, researchers find.”
  4. Fountain of youth:  “Adult stem cells can be rejuvenated, simply by growing them in a youthful environment – at least in mice,” Linda Geddes reported on New Scientist.  “The discovery boosts hopes that adult human stem cells could be used to grow replacement tissue without the need for embryonic stem cells or complicated cell reprogramming.”

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