It is straightforward to see that when useful stem cells can be generated easily, then research, the technology base, and the development of therapies will progress more rapidly. I suspect that, from the perspective of twenty years hence, the real value of adult stem cells and first generation autologous stem cell therapies will be in the technologies, infrastructure and experience gained from the exercise - especially experience in controlling the differentiation of stem cells into the desired type.
With this in mind, it has been educational to watch just how much scientists have been doing with stem cells taken from skin - from hair follicles, to be precise - over the past few years. My attention was drawn today to a proof of concept work in differentiating skin stem cells:
Nestin+ hair follicle-associated cells of murine skin can be isolated and differentiated in vitro into neuronal and glial cells. Therefore, we have asked whether human skin also contains nestin+ cells, and whether these can be differentiated in vitro into neuronal and/or glial cell populations. In this methodological pilot study, we show that both are indeed the case - employing purposely only very simple techniques for isolating, propagating, and differentiating nestin+ cells from normal human scalp skin
Therefore, human scalp skin can serve as a highly accessible, abundant, and convenient source for autologous adult stem cell-like cells that offer themselves to be exploited for neuroregenerative medicine purposes.
The near future of regenerative medicine is bright indeed. Enough funding and ingenuity are present in the field to see through a revolution in how we view and treat degenerative conditions.
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