Given the natural ability of stem cells to generate almost any cell type in the human body, scientists have focused on the use of stem cells in therapeutic applications. Degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis are associated with defective neural cells and the loss of myelin . Following a heart attack or stroke, myocardial cells can be weakened or killed. Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease, targets insulin producing cells in the pancreas for destruction. Stem cells could have applications in all of these diseases, where they could be developed into replacement neural, heart, or beta cells. These treatments may even be able to avoid graft versus host disease problems, as the stem cells could be raised by the host, for the host. While these new fields of research must determine optimal methods for delivery and differentiation of the proper cell type, the results are encouraging and opening new avenues of thinking.

 

References:

  1. Boyle, A.J. et al. 2006. Circulation 114:339.
  2. Lipsett, M. and Finegood, D.T. 2001. Diabetes 51:1834.
  3. Perrier, A.L. et al. 2004. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 101:12543.