It’s a feel good thing, to read some of the latest medical news.
Stem cells are the child-like cells within us that could theoretically be converted into almost any tissue we need. But getting them is difficult. Embryonic cells pose all kinds of dilemma’s. We’ve already managed to get adult cells from skin, but that requires a biopsy. Now researchers have obtained stem cells from blood. It makes things just that much easier. They can also be stored and frozen. Handy to have as a back up in years to come; more flexible because they don’t have to be converted into the powerful Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells straight away.
One day, your GP will take a blood sample and send in an order for blood vessels, heart valves, muscle tissue — if you need a new bladder, people are already working on creating them. There won’t be so many waiting lists and prayers for donations, and there won’t be any need for immunosuppressant therapy either. Your body will be happy to have your own cells back.
Ponder how much we could achieve if we focused on solving real problems instead of fake ones.
This is the kind of research that we could be doing more of.
Dr Amer Rana and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge grew patients’ blood in the lab and isolated what are known as ‘late outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells’ (L-EPCs) to turn into iPS cells. The iPS cells can then be turned into any other cell in the body, including blood vessel cells or heart cells — using different cocktails of chemicals. Scientists use these cells to study disease, and ultimately hope to grow them into tissue to repair the damage caused by heart and circulatory diseases.
Dr Amer Rana, of the University of Cambridge, said of the research: “We are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem cells from a cell type found in blood. Tissue biopsies are undesirable — particularly for children and the elderly — whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.
Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, said: “iPS cells offer great potential — both for the study and potentially the future treatment of cardiovascular diseases. As iPS cells are made from the patient’s own tissue, they can be used to study diseases and hopefully one day to repair damaged tissue without being attacked by the body’s immune system.
“Being able to efficiently produce iPS cells using cells from a blood sample will make it easier for researchers to push this technology forward. But there are still many hurdles to overcome before this kind of technique could be used to treat patients.”
How much sooner will we get this to work, if we had a $10 billion Renewable Biology Fund?
Australia is the lucky country, but it could be a smart one.