Stem Cell Biology: The Road to the Clinic

Marie Csete
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Adult stem cells have been used for decades in bone marrow transplants to treat a variety of malignant diseases. Adult stem cells, by definition, undergo proliferative senescence (aging) and have limited efficiency for generating multiple different kinds of daughter cells when compared to human embryonic stem cells. Human embryonic stem cells do not undergo proliferative senescence (a major advantage for expansion in the lab) but are difficult to work with, and research with these cells is subject to federal funding restrictions. Recently, new isolation methods for human embryonic stem cells including reprogramming of adult cells, parthenogenetic derivation using eggs, and nuclear transfer have yielded human embryonic stem cells for research, without destruction of an embryo. Despite the enormous challenge of controlling human embryonic stem cells, clinical trials with human embryonic stem cell-derived cell therapies for a variety of chronic disease processes are likely to begin this year. The anticipated application of these cells in the clinic is an enormous advance for stem cell biology, likely to shift the focus of interest from controversies over derivation of the cells to the ethics of access and applicability of novel cell therapies.

Back to the program