In the present medical world, stem cells are a boon to researchers as they help to understand the disease progression, test new drugs for developmental disorders and offer effective stem cell therapies for over 80 medical conditions. The advent of induced pluripotent stem cell technology (iPSC technology) brought stem cell research a step closer in finding better treatment outcomes. At present, iPSC technology replaces the need of embryonic stem cells in many clinical studies, thus eliminating ethical issues concerning stem cell research.
What is iPSC Technology?
Adult human cells can be reprogrammed to form embryonic-like pluripotent stem cells which are capable of differentiating in to any kind of human body cells. This technology is pioneered by Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto, Japan for which he received a Nobel Prize in 2012. The iPSCs have gained popularity in the recent years and the technology is widely used by many researchers across the world to create tiny human organs called ‘Organoids’ which will serve as a model to study the impact of a new treatment or disease progression.
Need for Human Organs
Miniature human organs grown in lab are potentially useful for studying the development of diseases, toxicity testing of new drugs or therapies, replacing the use of animal models in research studies and they can also be used as a graft in case of partial organ transplant. Here is a list of human organs developed in laboratory condition using induced pluripotent stem cells:
Californian scientists created beating human heart tissue in lab using stem cells which replicates the entire mechanism of human heart along with associated connective tissues. This model was created to test the efficacy and safety of new cardiovascular drugs during clinical trials.
Completely Formed Human Brain
At Ohio University, scientists have created an almost fully formed human brain using induced pluripotent stem cells. This model of human brain is expected to be useful in the study of developmental disorders like Parkinson’s and to test potential drugs for personalized therapies.
Functional Liver Cells
Hepatocytes or Human liver cells are in short supply as they can only be isolated from donated liver so a group of scientists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created a functional human liver producing unlimited supply of liver cells using genetically engineered stem cells (iPSC technology). As pharmaceutical companies spend about USD 1 billion on liver cells each year, this technology brings a revolution in the research world.
Human Esophageal Tube
Esophagus is the tube that carries the food that we eat to the stomach. Some babies are born without a portion of this esophageal tube. In some cases, the gap is too great to repair so scientists have created the esophageal tube using patients own cells by incorporating stem cell infused 3D scaffold technology.
Tiny Intestine Bits
Human intestine tissue was created to study and improve treatment options for gastrointestinal diseases. Initially, iPSCs were used to create intestinal tissue which was connected to the kidney of a mouse to provide blood supply, thereby allowing it to develop into a piece of human intestine.
Small Human Skin
At King’s College London, a 3D piece of skin was created using induced pluripotent stem cells. This lab grown skin has a natural barrier that protects it from chemicals & toxin and also prevents it from losing moisture. It is useful in studying skin related disorders and to test cosmetics and new drugs.
At Cincinnati medical center, 3D gastric tissue was created using coaxed stem cells through iPSC technology. This mini stomach is 3mm in diameter but efficient to understand the mechanism of diseases affecting the stomach.
Artificial Human Blood
Using umbilical cord stem cells, scientists have created artificial or synthetic blood which contains RBCs. This is used to treat specific blood disorders like Thalassemia, Sickle cell anemia etc.
Stem cells are not restricted to stem cell therapy alone; they find a wider scope in the research world. The successful outcomes of these research studies prove the efficiency of stem cells and provide a promising future for the coming generations.