The Importance of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells in La Quinta
We could very well be on the cusp of not only a revolution, but a complete change in how we view medicine, and even basic functions of the body. What is the catalyst of this great shift in perspective in La Quinta? A little something called “induced pluripotent stem cells” or as it is otherwise referred, “iPS” for short. The brainchild of Japanese scientist and stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, iPS stem cells are created when something as ordinary as a skin cell is literally reprogrammed into becoming a stem cell. And how does this happen?
This feat was first achieved when Dr. Yamanaka was able to take some live skin cells from a lab rat, and inject them with a specially engineered virus designed to inoculate the skin cell with 24 specific genes—genes that would reprogram its host into ceasing to being a skin cell and reverting back into an embryonic stem cell instead. Yes, incredibly enough, this breakthrough makes it clear that it is indeed possible to press the rewind button on just about any cell of the body, inducing them to revert back to an embryonic, stem cell state.
Stem Cell Therapy in La Quinta
Prior to this accomplishment, the only way to get embryonic stem cells would be to take them from actual embryos. A situation which garnered much controversy over the ethics of manipulating such biological material. At one time there were heated debates on both sides of the aisle as to whether or not such research should even go forward. But with induced pluripotent stem cells this is no longer an issue. Neatly bypassing the whole issue of whether it is ethical to utilize pre-existing embryonic material, we can now create fully functional stem cells from something as innocuous as a skin cell.
Yes, any average old skin cell can be taken from an adult patient and induced to become a pluripotent stem cell. These stem cells are not only easy to obtain, but are far superior to anything that would be gleaned from an outside donor since it is produced from the patient’s own body. This means that there is no risk of infection or rejection as is the case with allogenic (from an outside donor) biological materials. And besides—most of us scrape skin cells off of our bodies by the thousands on a daily basis, so we might as well put them to good use!
And while efforts are still underway to regularize trial studies in humans, just the very nature of being able to reprogram cellular material has forever altered the approach when it comes to working with human biology. Along with the potential for cellular reprogramming, the fact that stem cells can now be produced on demand has allowed for whole cell lines to be created just to test out their reactions to specific drugs. This shortcut to direct biological testing in the lab has the potential to significantly reduce the length of time that new pharmaceutical treatments take up in trial studies.
This is only the beginning however, because now that the door is open, it will only lead to even more ground-breaking discoverers. And soon enough, things for that sounded like science fiction in the past such as “gene editing”, just might be possible. And we call thank the creation induced pluripotent stem cells for it. Because it was the implementation of iPS that showed us how cellular data could be edited in much the way you could edit a piece of computer code.
Just take for example the “CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool that has allowed scientists to directly experiment with iPS cells, creating new and stunning results every day, simply through the direct trial and error manipulations of the cellular material. Where will all of this lead? Much testing needs to be done, but there are many who are very hopeful about the future of stem cell therapy thanks to the discovery of iPS. Many for example, have strong hope that chronic diseases such as diabetes, muscular dystrophy and even cancer will be eliminated due to breakthroughs in this field.
The future of stem cell therapy is here
It is also widely speculated that allogenic organ donations—that is organs transplanted from an outside donor—will become all but obsolete since advances in iPS will allow a person to grow their own spare organs from their own bodily tissue. There are some who have expressed dismay and shock at the idea of a future in which we will all have spare body parts, just as a car has a spare tire. But for the most part the public at large has been fairly receptive to the idea.
And working with this general sense of good will, biotech companies are rising to meet the challenge that this public interest for new innovative stem cell therapies has called for. Researchers are now working around the clock to unlock the very secrets of molecular biology as we know it. From what they uncover there could even be a cure for previously uncurable diseases such as cancer and AIDS in the works. But even beyond curing these devastating diseases, some believe that the secrets that pluripotent stem cells will unlock may go even deeper than that.
They believe that manipulation of iPS just might be able to cure us of the process of aging itself. It is now speculated that stem cells can be used to arrest and even reverse the aging process. Studies are underway at this very moment that seem to clearly indicate a potential future in which the mechanisms that cause cells to age could be actively manipulated and possibly even turned off. As it turns out, there have been quite a few promising advances made in understanding how stem cells function in the hypothalamus of our brain.
What is Neurogenesis?
A strong connection has been established between these two factors and the speed at which we age. Have you ever been under the impression that some people age faster than others? Well according to this study there is actually a biological reason for that. You see, the brain requires neural stem cells in order to successfully undergo the process of neurogenesis. Just what is neurogenesis you may ask? It’s the production of new brain cells. Have you ever heard that brain cells don’t come back? But as it turns out, this isn’t exactly true. Despite what you may have been told, we are not born with a finite amount of brain cells that can never be replaced.
But what is true—is the fact that the ability of the hypothalamus of our brain to produce these brain cells greatly declines with age. And as studies have shown, the steady decrease in the hypothalamus’s production of brain cells is directly on par with the steady ageing of our entire body. So, it only makes sense that an introduction of stem cells to replenish these depleted stores would then slow down, arrest, or possibly even reverse the aging process! As you can see, the fact that a cell can be reprogrammed and “induced” into becoming an embryonic stem cell is really only the beginning. Stay tuned for more to come!
If you want to take advantage of Stem Cell Therapy in La Quinta, contact our office today!
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