Imagine how would it be, if any of you are able to take out cells from your own skin and use them to cure multiple health issues, right from your hair fall to heart disease? Although it seems to be quite unrealistic, it should be noted that today the world is at the cusp of the stem cells revolution!
“Challenges still remain and have to be sorted but should be necessarily be considered as the stepping stones of the success!”.
The scientific contingent across the world is intrigued with multiple nitty-gritty associated with stem cells and their application in the medicine, such as, the way these cells are communicating inside our bodies, how do they recognize the site of injury, mechanism behind their paracrine effect, homing mechanism, etc.; and the list is still very long! However, the intense research in the last couple of decades has provided various important information related to the developmental, physiological and morphological processes that lead to the structural as well as functional contribution for the tissue.
We started with the idea that human embryos have the key towards immortality, went through a lot of ethical concerns, diverted our attention towards less potent yet readily available adult sources of stem cells and finally landed at a point where adult stem cells are reprogrammed to inherit the same potency as that of the embryonic stem cells! Huh, long journey isn’t it? It was certainly not an easy task though; the road was full of many challenges. The journey will end at a final destination, wherein scientists are looking forward to create multiple functional organs ready to be transplanted in a risk-free manner!
It was the mouse that changed the direction of the medicine!
Probably in the early years of the 1990’s, scientists were able to identify the power of stem cells in metamorphosing into cells of multiple tissue-specific origins. The community was quite amazed at the idea that forced them to divert their attention in exploring the power of mouse embryonic stem cells, which went on to create an entire mouse model that was completely normal, but derived from embryonic stem cells grown in a petri dish! The experiment proved to be a breakthrough and quite instrumental in making people believe the potential of regenerative medicine.
In the late 1990s, when the master key of human embryonic stem cells, isolated from human embryos was ready to be used to unlock the mysteries of diseases and their therapeutic outcome; the ethical controversy ensued. Many social reformers and political leaders lobbied against unethical exploitation of human embryos to be used for medical research and development.
With the implementation of stringent guidelines for the same that were quite influential and well beyond the boundaries; scientists moved their focus from embryonic stem cells to their adult counterparts. However, due to limited potency, the adult stem cells were not much fascinating to them at all; and the struggle to find out a comparable source continued till the time stem cell revolution took place in 2006, wherein scientists were able to reprogramme adult stem cells into embryonic stem cells. These cells were named to be as the induced pluripotent stem cells.
The future of medicine?
Currently, stem cells have been noted to be as the boon to the therapeutic module and are being used obsessively by creating an endless supply of different types of cells to study disease models, drug testing and another mechanism. Through different types of studies conducted all over the world, induced pluripotent stem cells were being modified into lung cells, cardio fibroblasts, hepatocytes, neurons etc. and were found to be fully functional.
The challenges in printing the tissue
Scientists are also struggling to produce a functional 3-dimensional model for diseased tissue with the help of living cells captured inside the printable material; quite similar to that of natural tissue. Through the establishment of complex network comparable to that of the real world inside the body, it is now possible to shed more light on factors that are responsible for the diseased condition, lost functions, and other pathological disorders.
For the effective translation of scientific understanding to the clinical practice; a lot of challenges still need to be solved. As for today’s condition, both scientific, as well as medicinal community, is flaunting to have personalized medicine in the form of stem cells, readily available to treat multiple health issues that may ail us; in the near future.