The influence of stem cell therapy in medical fields
Stem cells are unspecialized cells of the human body with the ability to self-renew and differentiate into any type of cells of an organism. Recently, there has been an explosion of interest in stem cells within the scientific and medical communities because of their tremendous potential to benefit human health (1).
Skin replacement In 2000, Jahoda and colleagues successfully conducted an experiment proving that the follicular stem cell population has a dual function in producing hair and contributing to the skin epidermis. They were able to grow skin from a patient’s plucked hair. Research like this is helpful in aiding skin-based gene therapies improving the prospects for skin replacement, skin-based tissue engineering, and skin treatments for diseases like cancer (2).
Brain cell transplantation Parkinson’s disease involves the loss of neuronal cells producing dopamine. Transplantation of human embryonic dopamine neurons into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease has proved to be beneficial in open clinical trials. However, some patients developed side effects, suggesting over-production of or an over-sensitization to dopamine (3)
Treatment for diabetes
The number of adults suffering from diabetes is expected to reach 238 million by 2030 and 260 million by 2045 (4). The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by cells in the pancreas and the major cause of diabetes is the abnormal metabolism of insulin. In 2001, Lumelsky and colleagues successfully used mouse embryonic cells to generate cells producing insulin and other pancreatic endocrine hormones.
These cells were also able to form three-dimensional self-assembled clusters similar in topology to normal pancreatic islets where pancreatic cells are in close association with neurons. This breakthrough has the potential to develop novel therapeutic strategies for diabetes and replace the constant need for insulin injections (5).
Organoids and stem cells
Organoids are miniaturized and simplified versions of organs produced in vitro that recapitulate the in vivo architecture and functionality of the original tissues. They can be developed from pluripotent stem cells and adult stem cells for multiple organs including the intestine, brain, kidney, ovary, stomach, lung, and pancreas. Recent advances in organoid technology have enabled the development of human-derived models to better understand disease pathology and develop strategies for personalized medicine (6,7).
1. Zakrzewski W, Dobrzyński M, Szymonowicz M, Rybak Z. Stem cells: past, present, and future. Stem Cell Res Ther. 2019 Feb 26;10(1):68. doi: 10.1186/s13287-019-1165-5. PMID: 30808416; PMCID: PMC6390367.
2. Jahoda, C., Reynolds, A. Skin stem cells – a hairy issue. Nat Med 6, 1095–1097 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/80418
3. Freed CR, Greene PE, Breeze RE, Tsai WY, DuMouchel W, Kao R, Dillon S, Winfield H, Culver S, Trojanowski JQ, Eidelberg D, Fahn S. Transplantation of embryonic dopamine neurons for severe Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2001 Mar 8;344(10):710-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200103083441002. PMID: 11236774.
4. International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas 10th edition
5. Lumelsky N, Blondel O, Laeng P, Velasco I, Ravin R, McKay R. Differentiation of embryonic stem cells to insulin-secreting structures similar to pancreatic islets. Science. 2001 May 18;292(5520):1389-94. doi: 10.1126/science.1058866. Epub 2001 Apr 26. Erratum in: Science 2001 Jul;293(5529):428. PMID: 11326082.
6. Dutta D, Heo I, Clevers H. Disease Modeling in Stem Cell-Derived 3D Organoid Systems. Trends Mol Med. 2017 May;23(5):393-410. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2017.02.007. Epub 2017 Mar 21. PMID: 28341301.
7. Li Y, Tang P, Cai S, Peng J, Hua G. Organoid based personalized medicine: from bench to bedside. Cell Regen. 2020 Nov 2;9(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s13619-020-00059-z. PMID: 33135109; PMCID: PMC7603915.