Commentary and discussion on aspects of stem cell research

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stem cell banking: A UK perspective on a global challenge

The UK Stem Cell Bank was established in 2003 to store, characterise and supply ethically approved stem cells for medical research and treatment. It was the first government funded public service collection of stem cells and it has played an important role in developing and maintaining standards in the UK and internationally. So what exactly does it do and why do we need this type of stem cell banking?  Glyn Stacey, Director of the UK Stem Cell Bank, tells us more.

Non-fiction writing competition: send us your science writing, go graphical or submit a poem

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Update 13/9/13: read the winning entries

We're running our first ever writing competition! Surprise us with your imaginative science writing, wow us with your graphic non-fiction or impress us in poetry. Upload your entry by the deadline on 30th June and you could win 300 Euros and see your work live online.

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Stem cell therapies and neurological disorders of the brain: what is the truth?

There have been several claims that stem cells can already be used in patients affected by neurological disorders. What do we really know about these therapies and how should these claims be viewed?

Making red blood cells: A model of stem cell therapy development

Translating laboratory research into cell therapies raises many complex questions and challenges for both science and society. Social scientist Emma King spent four years following a regenerative medicine research project to examine how clinical translation might work in practice. Here, she reflects on what she learnt and what it might mean for the development of future therapies.

Commercial cell therapies in Europe – a brief introduction

Work on regenerative medicine is not only happening in academic laboratories, novel cell-based therapies are also being developed by commercial companies in Europe and across the world. Michael Morrison, a social scientist with a focus on science, technology and innovation, takes a look at what is happening in the European commercial sector.