The Flexibility of Adult Stem Cells
We all started from a single cell that divided into millions and trillions of cells each with their own identities – neurons, red blood cells, heart muscle cells. Biologists believe – after studying the processes of cell maturation – that adult tissue cells can’t become any other type of cell. But recent researches have introduced discoveries of adult cells retaining their flexibility.
This latest study involves pluripotent stem cells that can grow into any specialized type of cell. The research was first introduced in 1998, when scientists singled out human embryonic stem cells. But further research was obstructed due to the fact that these cells are harvested from human embryos. This was later changed by the research of Kyoto University’s Shinya Yamanaka back in 2006 where he discovered that they can genetically reprogram adult skin cells to return to being a pluripotent cell which won him a Nobel Prize.
A team of researchers from the University of California including molecular pathologist Thea Tlsty have been studying cells in the breast that heals wounds when injured by rapidly dividing. This is where they discovered a cell – about 1 in 10,000 breast cells – similar to pluripotent stem cells that they named endogenous pluripotent somatic class of stem cell which was never seen before.
Somdutta Roy, one of the colleagues of Thea, placed these cells onto plastic plates and sustained them with growth factors and nutrients that are known to develop heart muscle cells where after a while he created a beating heart cell right in the lab. The team recreated the experiment using other blends of nutrients that brought to life bone, blood vessels, fat and neurons.
This research can potentially replace a patient’s damaged cells with healthy new ones and treat diseases like Parkinson’s disease or diabetes – right from their own stem cells. Researchers can replicate these results so that they can further the breakthroughs in stem cell therapies and might even be able to grow new organs.