Reprogramming human cells

The future of medicine


Shinya Yamanaka and John B. Gurdon were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012 "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent". This enabled researchers and physicians to produce stem cells from patient tissues through an easy induction process. These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPCs) are the answer to many problems of modern medicine. Stem cells can form all cells found in the human body. They could be used to regenerate healthy tissue after injuries especially in cases that are currently untreatable like spinal cord and brain injuries. Growing new organs in artificial materials or in animal hosts could satisfy the need for organ donations. Artificial red blood cells could be produced at industrial scale making blood donations unnecessary. Disease modeling and drug development benefited greatly from iPCs, providing access to human cells that were previously difficult or impossible to obtain. In addition drugs could be developed using human cells instead of animal tests. Furthermore infertility would not prohibit from having a family. All parts of the human body could be partially rejuvenated fighting aging related decline. Embryonic stem cells are a highly debated topic and iPCs provide an in many regards identical research matter from a far less morally complex source. This research also brings new moral questions with it. What are the rights of an animal that contains human cells? Is a clone derived from skin cells a new human being? GMO humans will be, given our current gen editing tools, a thing of the near future. Dr. Yamanaka's discovery turned Sci-Fi into Sci and our future will be formed by the research done today.