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

Last year we were reacquainted with two familiar ethical conundrums: the creation of human “replicants” and research using human embryos. In the newly released Blade Runner sequel, the replicants are again made at the behest of the powerful and privileged, renewing our fears of human cloning gone wrong. Earlier in the year, Harvard geneticist John Aach and his colleagues published a cautionary article in eLife about SHEEFs, a new kind of embryo-like construct using induced pluripotent stem cells.

SHEEF stands...


“I want to democratize science,” says biohacker extraordinaire Josiah Zayner.

This is certainly a worthy-sounding sentiment. And it is central to the ethos of biohacking, a term that’s developed a bit of sprawl. Biohacking can mean non-profit community biology labs...

Aggregated News

The year was 2004, and great medical breakthroughs were supposedly right around the corner.

In TV advertisements, celebrities Michael J....

Aggregated News

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday warned stem cell product supplier American CryoStem Corporation for marketing an...