With the use of stem cells, researchers are making great strides in the name of medical advancement in terms of disease formation and development. There are different forms of stem cells, and one form which has been an exciting breakthrough for the medical field is induced pluripotent stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are a sort of ‘master cell’, in the idea that these cells are able to make cells from all three basic body layers, so they can possibly recreate any cell or tissue the body may need to repair itself. Like all other stem cells, pluripotent stem cells are able to renew, and perpetually recreate themselves. Turning any cell of the body into a pluripotent stem cell is possible with reprogramming.
Discovering Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka presented the act of skin cells being reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells by artificially adding four genes. This revelation banished the thought that embryonic stem cells were the only pluripotent stem cells to exist, and would bring Shinya Yamanaka to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine six years later.
Later on, more programs and labs would catch on to the studying and recreation of induced pluripotent stem cells, such as the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, which was one of the first three labs to do this reprogramming on human cells Now, scientists can reprogram human cells, with the addition of even fewer than four genes.
Why are Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Important?
Being able to reprogram stem cells is a mindblowing medical breakthrough. Reprogramming can be done on easily accessible tissues, such as skin and blood cells. This prevents the need for invasive procedures on patients. Researchers and scientists now have the option to create induced pluripotent stem cells, and this is particularly important when talking about the potential of working with disease. IPS cells come from the patient’s own body, so they are already genetically matched. Because of this, the issues of tissue matching or tissue rejection are nothing to worry about, and these are the two factors that impede successful cell and tissue transplantations.
In order to succeed in treating a disease, how it develops and what the source of the problem is are key factors for research. Induced pluripotent stem cells are a revelation for researchers looking to study a disease.
Researchers can recreate iPS cells using cells derived from a patient afflicted with a disease, and produce other cells with the same genetic background to study and find out more about what goes wrong inside the cells to develop a disease. These diseased cell models are also perfect to test new drugs to treat or protect patients from said disease.
Induced Pluripotent Cells Vs. Embryonic Stem Cells
In terms of abilities, iPS cells and embryonic stem cells are very much alike. They are both self-renewing cells, which means they can divide and reproduce copies of themselves unlimitedly. Also, both types of cells can be used to obtain any kind of specialized cell under specifically controlled conditions in a lab. Again, they are very much interchangeable in some instances.
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However, there are a few key differences between these cells. For starters, iPS cells are not dependent on the use of cells from an embryo. Some research also indicates that some of the genes in induced pluripotent cells can behave differently compared to those in embryonic stem cells. This can be caused by an incomplete reprogramming of the cells or genetic changes acquired by the iPS cells as they multiply and grow.
Researchers still have a lot to study in terms of understanding how reprogramming works inside a cell, which is why many scientists believe iPS cells can’t replace embryonic stem cells in basic research.
Challenges of Induced Pluripotent Cells
Though iPS cells are a large advancement for medical research, there is still a lot of research to be done in terms of understanding exactly how the reprogramming occurs in a cell. Researchers must also study iPS cells more to understand how iPS cells can be produced consistently and controlled enough to meet quality and safety requirements for the lab/clinic, as well how cells made from iPS cells will behave in the body. iPS cells behave differently from embryonic stem cells, and researchers are still looking at the effects these may have on medicine and research. There is still more to be done in terms of developing affordable and effective iPS cell treatments, as this still remains a constant challenge.
By studying iPS cells closely, scientists were able to develop a way to create these cells without making permanent genetic changes that were linked to the possible formation of tumors. Research and close studies are allowing the creation of iPS obtained specialized cells that will be safe for use for patients, but again, there is still a lot more research to be done.
IPS Cells and The Future
With the use of reprogramming, there is now a larger potential for new medical breakthroughs with iPS cells, especially when combatting and studying disease. A new medical process iPS cells could be most effective in is cell replacement therapies. These cell therapies would allow iPS cells to be reprogrammed and transplanted into patients to replace defective diseased cells.
Also a potential medical advancement with iPS cells is the idea that reprogramming will allow scientists to further modify iPS cells, such as artificially ageing them. This can be especially beneficial when scientists want to study a disease that affects an older adult, such as Alzheimer’s. It would be easier to study this disease on aged cells, rather than embryonic stem cells that are weeks old.
A breakthrough in 2006 by Shinya Yakanama introduced a large advancement in stem cell research and usage in the medical field. IPS cells are particularly important to study diseases and allow scientists to get an idea of how diseases form and continue to develop in order to create a successful treatment. The future with iPS cells is bright, and modern medicine will continue to form new developments while further studying these induced pluripotent stem cells. The only challenges with iPS cells remain to be solved by more research, but that should not be a problem when the promise of treating disease is so near.
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