Recent breakthrough enabling scientists of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to “reprogram” adult stem cell taken from human skin cells into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells.
These cells which are like embryonic stem cell are scientifically known as “induced pluripotent stem cells“, could be developed into wide range of tissues and subsequently coaxed to become the precursor cells of human eggs and sperms.
Scientists believe that it is too early to determine whether the reprogrammed cells are functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells. In addition, the technique can cause mutations that predispose cells to cancer. As a result, some scientists are concerned that the reprogrammed cells will never be suitable for use in patients.
But if such reprogramming can be done safely, the skin cells of men and women (who are incapable of conceiving on their own) could be used to “grow” eggs and sperm bearing their own genetic material.
It is sure to be a most simple and preferable way for infertile couples, who usually had to search for an egg- or sperm-donor, and that doner eventually becomes one of the resulting child’s genetic parent. As per UCLA these germ cells would be specific and genetically related to the patients.
Embryonic stem cells exist only at the earliest stages of embryonic development and are capable of making any cell type in the body. Under the right conditions, these cells retain the ability to divide and make copies of themselves indefinitely. Scientists are beginning to understand how to make these cells develop into any of the more than 200 different types of cells in the human body.
However expert agrees that embryonic stem cells have the ability to create any cell type in the human body. Adult stem cells are more specialized; they generally make cells only from their tissue of origin. Thus, embryonic stem cells can do things that adult stem cells cannot do. Hence to maximize the chances of discovering new cures, it is essential to pursue research on all avenues, using embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and reprogrammed cells.