Induced pluripotent stem cell for research

Human_embryonic_stem_cells

Scientific method at times can be summarized by this classic joke: A man searching for his keys under a lamp post although he lost them some distance away, because "that's where the light is."

Most experiments in medical science are performed on animals and then the results generalized to humans. It is good method, but does not work all the time.

Now scientists have another tool at their disposal, which will allow them to study diseased human cells, not animals cells.

This new approach is summarized below:

Pluripotentstemcells
Pluripotentstemcells

(Pluripotent stem cells have the capability to transform into cell type of the human body)

In fact, one article utilizing this new method was recently published in New England Journal of Medicine. Investigators took skin cells from a patient suffering from Long QT syndrome (a type of heart disease which predisposes to arrhythmias and sudden death), converted them into heart cells and then analyzed them in a petri-dish.

This new tool will have far reaching implications on how medical research is performed but it not without its flaws. For e.g.:

  • There are many diseases that in vitro models may not be sufficient to study the entire pathophysiology that may require multiple cell types
  • Many diseases are mixture of genetic and environmental influences and it may be difficult to replicate this in the lab

Now only if we could grow entire organs with the disease!