February 23, 2024

Scientists creating “diseases in a dish” with induced pluripotent cells

But what about the controversy?
After nearly 10 years of controversy,
scientists seem little closer to achieving “miracle cures” with embryonic stem
cells – although two clinical trials have begun recently. But that was only one
of the benefits promised by its supporters. The other one was the possibility
of creating “diseases in a dish” for drug discovery.

Now, according to the journal Science, great
progress has been made in the study of intractable diseases – but with induced
pluripotent stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. “For the first time, we have
the ability to take any disease that is out there, take a few cells from a
patient, and create pluripotent cells in a dish,” says Gustavo Mostoslavsky, a
stem cell scientist at Boston University School of Medicine. “I think we will
see an explosion of papers in the next few years.”

In fact, nearly all the diseases mentioned
in pleas by scientists and celebrities who were desperate to use human
embryonic stem cells back in 2002 are now being studied with iPS cells,
including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

Reprogramming technologies are less than 5
years old, but Harvard’s Kevin Eggan told Science, “it’s hard not to be pretty
pleased with the progress that’s been made in a few short years.” One company specialising
in iPS cells is even turning a profit in a notoriously risky field. Cellular
Dynamics International, of Madison, Wisconsin, sells heart muscle cells  which have been derived from induced
pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for $1500 a vial. Dozens of drug companies buy the
cells to test their products for side-effects upon the heart.

So was all the fighting over embryonic stem
cells necessary? No one seems to be asking the question. ~ Science, Nov 26


Michael Cook
stem cells