What are iPSCs
and what's so special about them?
Stem cells are an unspecialized type of cells which can replicate itself and are able to develop into different types of specialized cells. Stem cells directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat many diseases.
Different stem cell types posess different capacity of differentiation depending on their 'potency'. While blood stem cells can only become blood cells and neural stem cells can only become nerve cells, a type of stem cells can become any type of cells in the human body; they are termed 'pluripotent' stem cells (PSCs).
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs), the first known type of PSCs revolve around ethical issues as their establishment involves destruction of embryos. Using ESCs as a stem cell source also risk immune rejection as they are non-self (allogenic) cells.
Fortunately, an engineered type of PSCs were found to be producible in the lab which is called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They share the same characteristics as ESCs, but hold the advantage of not having the ethical concerns and can be generated using an individual's own cells (autologous). iPSCs can be generated by genetic manipulation of adult cells such as skin cells and more recently, blood cells.
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^ Characteristics of Stem Cells