Stem Cells

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can be induced to develop into specialized tissue types. They can be derived from a number of cellular sources: adult, fetal, and placental tissues; umbilical cord blood; and embryos. Additionally, cellular reprogramming of body cells can create “induced pluripotent stem cells” that seem to have the full powers of embryonic stem cells. Researchers are investigating how to isolate stem cells from these different sources, culture them, and control their differentiation, in the hope of using them to investigate a variety of biological processes, develop new drugs, and treat a range of diseases.

Human embryonic stem cell research has been politically controversial in the U.S. and some other countries. Some object to any research that destroys human embryos, while others accept investigations that use embryos created but not used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. In response to restrictions on federal funding, some U.S. states, notably California, have invested large sums in this research.

Exaggerated promises and hopes about stem cell-based procedures have led to a proliferation of unlicensed clinics in the U.S. and elsewhere selling purported stem cell treatments that have not been tested by independent scientists or approved by regulatory authorities. Though some customers report improvements, others have been blinded or experienced unusual cancerous growths.


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Mouse brains make nice homes for human brain organoids, researchers report today (April 16) in Nature Biotechnology.

Brain organoids, also known as mini-brains, are tiny clumps of brain cells grown from stem cells that researchers are using to investigate...

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Dieter Egli was just about to start graduate school in 1998 when researchers first worked out how to derive human embryonic stem cells. In the two decades since, the prolific cells have been a fixture of his career. The biologist,...

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Back in 2004, when California's stem cell agency was little more than an idea in the minds of researchers, its...

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California is counting its first royalties from a 13-year-old effort to develop stem cell cures and has declared that it...

Illustration of a neanderthal skull.

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Black and white engraving of a neanderthal profile.

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A pair of two green eyes

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Brown mouse

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