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Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)
Traditionally, biomedical research has largely been based on animal work since experiments on human cells were severely limited by what human cell-types scientists were able to source. The development of methods for generating and maintaining pluripotent stem cells in the lab had huge implications on biomedical research: If scientists discovered how to recreate developmental processes in the lab, embryonic stem cells could be used as an unlimited source of any human cell-type to study. The first pluripotent stem cells used in research were Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs); However, ethical controversies have significantly limited their use in scientific research.In 2007, scientists discovered that, by using genetic reprogramming, adult cells can be reverted into a “stem cell-like” state. These engineered cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and are functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells. This discovery meant that scientists could create pluripotent stem cells from any single person by simply taking cells from blood, skin, or even urine. Thereby overcoming the controversy that has surrounded stem cell research.
As of today, iPSCs are the most widely used form of cells used in stem cell research. From recreating diseases in the lab to replacing damaged organs with your “own” lab grown cells, the promise of stem cell technology is enormous. Since its discovery, scientists have been racing to make these promises a reality.