An article published in Nature Medicine (20; 1368-1369,2014) discusses what its editors consider to be the most notable advances in medicine in 2014. Among these are four studies evaluating the therapeutic potential of stem cells.
In the first (Cell 157; 549-564, 2014), a team from Harvard University identified six transcription factors that, when expressed in bone marrow progenitor cells of mice, generated cells that can be differentiated to cells of diverse lineages, which can regenerate the haematopoietic system of irradiated mice.
In the second (Nature 511; 312-318,2014), researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at Weill Cornell University obtained similar results using human endothelial cells, cultured in vitro, which simulated the vascular niche of stem cells.
In the third (Cell 159; 428-439,2014), researchers at Harvard University Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Faculty of Medicine, developed a system for generating insulin-producing pancreatic β-cells, which as we know, are completely destroyed in type 1 diabetes. After transplanting these cells in diabetic mice, they produced insulin in the same way as “real” pancreatic β-cells, and reduced the glucose levels.
Finally, in the fourth (Nature Biotechnology 32; 1121-1133, 2014), a research group from British Columbia University in Canada, in collaboration with pharmaceutical company Janssen R & D, describe a culture method that mimics the development of human pancreatic β-cells. The cells generated, called S7 cells, reversed the clinical symptoms in diabetic mice within 40 days post-transplant.
In any case, and in addition to the great scientific importance of these findings, they also have great ethical importance, since in the four studies, experimental cells were obtained using adult cells as a starting point, which was we know avoids the ethical difficulty entailed in the use of embryonic stem cells.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.