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Stem Cells

Author(s): Joseph G. Marx, Ph.D

What Diseases Could Be Impacted by Stem Cell Research?

Research has shown that stem cell investigations may offer promising advances in medical treatment for a number of diseases and injuries. The use of stem cells to generate replacement tissues to treat neurological diseases, pancreatic disease, liver failure, chronic heart disease, cancer, and kidney failure is a major focus of scientists. The challenge is to take undifferentiated cells and direct their development into a purified specialized cell population. So far, only hematopoietic (blood producing) stem cells have been demonstrated safe for clinical application.

Current studies focus on the use of stem cells to generate transplantable and replacement tissues within the body. Scientists are working to apply stem cell research to the treatment of cancer by finding ways to deliver stem cell treatments that will either destroy or modify cancer cells. Stem cell research also is an important tool in our understanding of embryological development problems.

What lies ahead? According to the United States National Institutes of Health:

Predicting the future of stem cell applications is impossible, particularly given the very early stage of the science of stem cell biology. To date, it is impossible to predict which stem cells-those derived from the embryo, the fetus, or the adult-or which methods for manipulating the cells, will best meet the needs of basic research and clinical applications. The answers clearly lie in conducting more research.