Commentary and discussion on aspects of stem cell research

CRISPR - changing the gene editing landscape

In the last few years, the scientific community has seen rapid development of a new and ‘game-changing’ technology called CRISPR/Cas9. But what is CRISPR? How is it is being used by stem cell researchers? And why has it sparked debate? In this post, Dong Liu (PhD student at MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine) describes a technology that is altering the pace and possibilities of stem cell research.

Eight tiny organs grown by scientists

On 20 July researchers at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine announced that they had regrown damaged livers in mice. It’s just one example of scientists growing tiny versions of organs in animals and in the lab to study development and disease, and test potential treatments. Many of these organs also represent the first steps towards growing whole organs – or parts of organs – for transplant. MRC Science Writer Cara Steger rounds up progress.

Reflections on Stockholm: Tissue Engineering, Organ Development and Regeneration

Prospective PhD student Eilidh Livingston discusses her personal highlight - tissue engineering - from the international Society for Stem Cell Research's annual meeting in Stockholm in June this year.  Read on for a nice overview of the topic...

Regulation of unproven stem cell therapies – medicinal product or medical procedure?

This article is the second in a series of posts about unproven stem cell treatments by guest authors Casimir MacGregor, Alan Petersen and Megan Munsie. Their first post took a closer look at Germany's X-Cell Center and stem cell tourism. Here they consider the regulatory frameworks governing unproven stem cell treatments in Europe, the US and Australia.

Stem cell tourism: selling hope through unproven stem cell treatments - lessons from the X-Cell Center controversy

In recent years there has been a growing interest in so-called stem cell ‘tourism’ - where a person (often companied by their carer/family) travels to another country for a purported stem cell treatment that is not available in their home country. Many advertised treatments are clinically unproven, with little or no evidence for their safety and efficacy in specific conditions.

Managing the potential and pitfalls of emerging stem cell therapies

While blood stem cells have been used clinically for over 40 years, it was the discovery of human embryonic stem cells in 1998, that has built expectations for people affected by a multitude of degenerative, chronic and fatal diseases with no cures or effective treatments. The speed with which therapies were expected to roll out of the lab did not take into consideration the complete lack of infrastructure required to make it happen, for many turning potential into frustration.

Cell replacement therapies: iPS technology or transdifferentiation?

The ability to convert one cell type into another has caused great excitement in the stem cell field. Two main techniques exist: one reprograms somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), the other converts somatic cells directly into other types of specialized cells (transdifferentiation). These techniques raise high hopes that patient-personalized cell therapies will become a reality in the not-so-distant future.

Making insulin producing beta cells from stem cells – how close are we?

The unseen world: Insulin-producing cells made from human embryonic stem cellsThe unseen world: Insulin-producing cells made from human embryonic stem cells

Two recent studies have revealed for the first time how to to generate insulin producing cells, that resemble normal beta cells, in the lab from human pluripotent stem cells. This provides a step forward for a potential cell therapy treatment for diabetes. But how alike are these cells to the beta cells found in our bodies? How close are we to testing these cells in diabetics? And what other questions still remain? In this commentary, Henrik Semb tackles these questions providing perspective in this complex and challenging field.

What's in a name? Pathways in development

In this blog, Vanessa De Mello (Hippo pathway enthusiast and PhD student in the Musculoskeletal group, University of Aberdeen) explores the names behind signalling pathways that control stem cells.

During growth and development the cells that make up our body need to be precisely controlled. If a ‘stop signal’ is constantly given cells will not grow and divide. But if the lights are continually green, too many cells will grow leading to problems like cancer. It is the ‘developmental signalling pathways’ that control this and give our cells instructions on when to grow, divide, or die.

Yoshiki Sasai (1962-2014): an appreciation

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.