Transfusion Clinique et Biologique vol:16 issue:2 pages:65-69
The isolation of human embryonic stem cells (ESC) in 1998 has created the hope that stem cells will one day be used to regenerate tissues and organs, even though it is obvious that a number of hurdles will need to be overcome for such therapies to become reality. The cloning of "Dolly" in 1997, more than 40 years after the first frogs were cloned, combined with the very fast progress made in our understanding of the molecular processes that govern the pluripotency of ESC has lead to the ability of scientists to recreate a pluripotent state in fibroblasts and other cells from mouse, rat and man, named induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). This feat makes it theoretically possible to create patient specific pluripotent stem cells whose differentiated progeny could be used in an autologous manner obviating the need for immunosuppression that would be needed to use allogeneic ESC-derived differentiated cells. In addition, the ability to generate custom made pluripotent stem cells will no doubt lead to the development of protein or small molecule drugs that can induce differentiation not only of iPSC or ESC to mature tissue cells, but also endogenous tissue stem cells. Moreover, it allows scientists to create models of human diseases and may aid the pharmaceutical industry in testing more rigorously toxicity of drugs for human differentiated cells. Thus, there is little doubt that progress in stem cell biology will change many aspects of medicine as we know it in the next one to two decades.