Stem Cell Research
Despite what is known already, there is still much to learn in regards to the mysterious properties of stem cells. Scientists plan to embryonic stem cells to better understand the events surrounding human development, as well as to observe the process of mitosis in the cell and how it differentiates into more specific cells. Raising fertilized embryos in vitro (in glass tubes) in the lab, researchers destroy the embryo to retrieve the embryonic stem cells for use in treatment or research. Using these stem cells, scientists are trying to generate new tissue or organs by placing the stem cell in an area of ailing tissue and hope that it identifies and produces similar cells, or the cells are manipulated and produce the specific cells required. This same vein of research is happening with adult stem cells. These stem cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, are adult stem cells that are genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state where certain genes and factors are rearranged to resemble that of an embryonic stem cell. Though the properties of these cells do fall under what is classified as a stem cell, it is not yet known if these induced pluripotent cells differ from embryonic stem cells in medically significant ways. Further testing is under way, however these induced stem cells are being used in drug testing and formation of diseases and researchers are hoping to use them in transplantation medicine. Recent research has shown that tissues made from induced pluripotent stem cells are a nearly identical match to the donor of the stem cells, meaning that they will most likely avoid rejection from the body. These stem cells bring forth the exciting prospect that in time, scientists will learn to reprogram cells to repair damaged tissues in the body.