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.


Biopolitical Times

What might have been the story of the year turned out to be a disappointment. On February 14th, the National Academies delivered a valentine to those who want to commit germline gene editing. Its much anticipated report, Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance concluded that scientists should “proceed with caution.” This was the first time that human germline modification has ever been given a green light by a comparable body – the U.S. National Academies is an influential non-governmental...

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In late 2012, French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier approached a handful of American scientists about starting a company, a Crispr company. They included UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna, George Church at Harvard University, and his former postdoc Feng Zhang of the Broad...

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Are fat stem cells a drug? Today the FDA definitively indicated “yes” without leaving much of any room for exceptions...

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For a soccer-playing, holiday-loving boy on the brink of death from a rare inherited skin disease, doctors have accomplished a...

Landscape photo of the CA Capitol Building, against a blue sky and surrounded by trees,\.

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Close-up of an eye retina.

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