Clinical potentials of human pluripotent stem cells

Aging, injuries, and diseases can be considered as the result of malfunctioning or damaged cells. Regenerative medicine aims to restore tissue homeostasis by repairing or replacing cells, tissues, or damaged organs, by linking and combining different disciplines including engineering, technology, biology, and medicine. To pursue these goals, the discipline is taking advantage of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), a peculiar type of cell possessing the ability to differentiate into every cell type of the body. Human PSCs can be isolated from the blastocysts and maintained in culture indefinitely, giving rise to the so-called embryonic stem cells (ESCs). However, since 2006, it is possible to restore in an adult cell a pluripotent ESC-like condition by forcing the expression of four transcription factors with the rejuvenating reprogramming technology invented by Yamanaka. Then the two types of PSC can be differentiated, using standardized protocols, towards the cell type necessary for the regeneration. Although the use of these derivatives for therapeutic transplantation is still in the preliminary phase of safety and efficacy studies, a lot of efforts are presently taking place to discover the biological mechanisms underlying genetic pathologies, by differentiating induced PSCs derived from patients, and new therapies by challenging PSC-derived cells in drug screening.

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