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Scientists have successfully ‘reset’ human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (7-9 days old). These ‘pristine’ stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development, but have until now been impossible to replicate in the lab.
Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists have for the first time managed to turn stem cells into the specialised cells that go on to form spinal cord, muscle and bone tissue in the growing embryo. Their discovery could lead to a new way of studying degenerative conditions such as spinal muscular atrophy, which affects the nerve cells in the spinal column, and may pave the way for future treatments for this and other neuromuscular conditions.
Ever thought of the potential for stem cells to be used for making leather or clothes? Maybe not the first application that comes to mind when the focus of most stem cell research is human medicine. Future casting by young people, though, gives rise to imaginative and curious questions. Such questions have provided a wealth of discussion and wonderment during two science engagement projects aimed at young people: Regenerate! In Scotland and a stem cell revolutions film tour in Australia.
Yoshiki Sasai was a visionary scientist who pioneered research at the interface between developmental biology and stem cell biology, contributing major discoveries to both fields and sowing the seeds for applications in regenerative medicine.