Despite the biomedical research advances of the last 50 years, much is still left to be discovered in human biology and millions of people still suffer from devastating diseases. Early human stem cell research is viewed by many as a key to understanding many of the most fundamental questions in basic and clinical biology that can lead to treatments and cures, and ultimately save lives.
With a better understanding of early cell development, researchers expect to increase their knowledge of why cells behave abnormally and produce diseases such as cancer. Research on early human stem cells may also reduce a number of barriers posed by animal studies, which can be a major limitation in getting new therapies to market.
It is expected that early human stem cells could be used to create an unlimited supply of cells, tissues, or even organs that could be transplanted to restore function lost to disease and injury. While early stem cell research in humans is still in its infancy and specific treatments have not yet been developed, many experts expect treatments will be possible in the future for the following types of illnesses, injuries, and diseases:
While no early stem cell therapies are being used in humans yet, a number of recent research studies demonstrate success in animals. Some of those research efforts include:
Spinal Cord Injury:
McDonald, J.W., et. al. Transplanted embryonic stem cells survive, differentiate, and promote recovery in injured rat spinal cord. Nature Medicine 5: 1410-1412 (01 Dec 1999).
Fraidenraich, D., et al. Rescue of Cardiac Defects in Id Knockout Embryos by Injection of Embryonic Stem Cells. Science 306: 247-252 (8 October 2004).
Menasche, P. 2004. Embryonic stem cells pace the heart. Nature Biotechnology 22: 1237-1238 (01 October 2004).
Takagi, Y., et al. 2005. Dopaminergic neurons generated from monkey embryonic stem cells function in a Parkinson primate model. J. Clin. Invest. 115: 102-109.
ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease):
Wichterie, H., et al. 2002. Directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells into motor neurons. Cell 110: 385-397.