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Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cells have faced controversy for years. Less well known are adult stem cells found in various tissues. Of particular interest are pluripotent adult stem cells. These stem cells can differentiate themselves under certain conditions to transform into different cell types such as skin, muscle, bone, etc. The potential benefits of being able to create specialized cells from stem cells in a patient is enormous. For example, if a patient had a failing heart, at some point, it will be possible to extract stem cells from the patient and convert them into heart muscle cells to regenerate the failing heart. Since the cells come from the patient, the likelihood of rejection would be minimal. Another area of great potential is to use stem cells to create cartilage cells. Millions of knee joints could benefit.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have been studying the processes by which stem cells can become other cells. They have mapped out the sets of biological and chemical signals necessary to quickly and efficiently direct stem cells to become any of 12 cell types, including bone, heart muscle and cartilage. See Stanford researchers coax human stem cells to rapidly generate bone, heart muscle  for more about the research. Read more about regenerative medicine and 3-D printing in Health Attitude.

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