Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) provide an un-paralleled amount of information in regards to the early development of the human body, much like astronomers take stock of past information gathered on the Big Bang theory to make future predictions related to the universe.
ES cells give biologists the opportunity to take a closer look at the inner workings of these unique elements so as to find clues on how a single original cell is capable of turning into trillions, with their unique qualities, range of forms and functions.
Over the years, scientists have been able to learn about turning these kinds of cells into mature ones, all representing a variety of tissues and organs in the body. They have also used them to test different drugs, manipulate a disease, and as therapies that can be injected right into the body.
Researchers have been able to develop a wide variety of successful clinical trials involving cells generated from embryonic stem cells, aimed at treating disorders such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and several other health conditions.
Based on early results, it is assumed that some of the approaches are indeed working. There is also a long-awaited report scheduled (to come out very soon) that showcases improved or heightened vision capabilities in two patients with age-related macular degeneration, which is a condition that destroys sharpness in vision.
Researchers are also working towards embracing the concept of growing organs using embryonic stem cells. Some of the key aspects propelling this brazen idea are the emergence of the right signalling molecules and a capable 3D environment. With such features, ES cells can be organized into complex tissues referred to as organoids. This kind of capability is critical for researchers dedicated to creating intestinal organoids intended for testing different kinds of medications, and perhaps in future transplant procedures.
The discovery of new sources of embryonic stem cells has also led to the emergence of different kinds of research tools well adapted for genetic disorders. For instance, back in 2004, fertility physicians working in Chicago began making ES cell-lines using embryos developed via an in-vitro fertilization process that had been discovered to contain a genetic disorder or defect and were thereby disregarded for any kind of fertility treatment.
As result, the team was able to come up with cellular models of thalassaemia, muscular dystrophy, Marfan’s syndrome, Huntington’s disease, and various other genetic conditions.
In the clinical world of cell physiology, many experts are pointing to the fact that iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) will eventually take precedence over embryonic stem cells. One of the advantages could be the production of both tissues and cells that have similar DNA, which wouldn´t spark up any sort of immune reaction when or if the transplant takes place. However, for most genetic conditions like type-1 diabetes, iPS cells developed from an infected person would possess the mutation that is responsible for the problem. As a result, they would need to undergo some sort of modification in order to bring about therapeutic benefits.