- Adult stem cells have been studied for over 50 years (see timeline below) and have been successful in treating diseases of the blood and bone marrow, like leukemia, and lymphomas.
- Human embryonic stem cells were first isolated in the United States in 1998. In the few short years since that time, human embryonic stem cells have demonstrated their potential by reversing diseases and conditions like diabetes, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injury in animal studies.
- Adult stem cells are multipotent (meaning they can develop into a limited number of cells), are able to divide for a shorter period of time, and are derived from the cells of human beings. Since adult stem cells are programmed to only become cell types from their own particular organ system, adult stem cells can be used to cure some – but not all – degenerative diseases and conditions.
- Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent (meaning they can develop into any of the cells in the human body), are able to divide for extended periods of time, and are derived from early stage embryos, undifferentiated clumps of a hundred or so cells no bigger than the head of a pin.
- Beyond the future therapeutic uses, embryonic stem cells continue to teach researchers:
- how to make adult stem cells behave in a more useful way
- how particular diseases develop and progress and might be reversed
- how drugs work on diseases at a cellular level, and
- how the cell functions at the earliest stages of development and how that process can be made to function normally, if defective.
|“Adult stem cells [are] clearly good enough for certain purposes and yet limited in some ways. Embryonic stem cells…will be necessary to do everything we want in tissue repair, even replacement of an organ.”
Dr. James Willerson,
President, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
President, Texas Heart Institute
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