Flexible Human Cells

The Future of Stem-Cell Biology

Flexible human Cells - The Future of Stem-Cell Biology

Embryonic stem cell research has long proven difficult and controversial, which is why scientists are so enthusiastic about recent success with another type of cell research: specialized direct conversion. Direct conversion skips the embryonic stem cell, and instead convinces one specialized cell to become another type of specialized cell by inserting chemical signals to activate particular genes. Since all cells in a person’s body carry the same DNA code, a cell’s identity actually depends on its lineup of active genes. “I think everyone believes this is really the future of so-called stem-cell biology,” says John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania, who is also pursuing this approach to cell regeneration, “This is something that’s really caught fire because it’s an easy strategy to use.” Even with all the success however, many questions still remain. The biggest one perhaps is: Would it be safe to transplant these cells into humans? Gearhart claims that the science community is a long way from knowing the answer to that question, “this stuff is all so new that we have a lot of work to do.”

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