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Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)

Topics Covered:

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  2. Bio- technology.

 

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Stem cells, iPSC- meaning, functions, significance and potential.

 

Context: Japan approves stem cells trial to treat spinal cord injuries. A team of Japanese researchers will carry out an unprecedented trial using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries.

 

What are induced pluripotent stem cells?

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell–like state by being forced to express genes and factors important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells.

Although additional research is needed, iPSCs are already useful tools for drug development and modeling of diseases, and scientists hope to use them in transplantation medicine.

 

What are stem cells, and why are they important?

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

 

Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics:

  1. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity.
  2. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.

 

What are the similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells?

One major difference between adult and embryonic stem cells is their different abilities in the number and type of differentiated cell types they can become. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are thought to be limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin.

Embryonic stem cells can be grown relatively easily in culture. Adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues, so isolating these cells from an adult tissue is challenging, and methods to expand their numbers in cell culture have not yet been worked out. This is an important distinction, as large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies.

 

Sources: the hindu.