So much is written about stem cell research that I sometimes worry the term has become a crutch that is used as much to hype unproven treatments as to describe legitimately promising research. It's sometimes hard to discern where to turn for accurate information.
Now, Stanford stem cell biologist Helen Blau, PhD, and Harvard's George Daley, MD, PhD, have authored a state-of-the-field review recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Blau is the director of Stanford's Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology.
As Blau explained:
I wanted to address the challenge of writing a review on stem cells and their use in regenerative medicine and the treatment of disease that would be of interest, both to the average physician and to the aficionado. Moreover, it should span at least seven different tissues and have illustrations that would inform the reader not only of the exciting advances in the field, but also the daunting obstacles yet to be overcome. I wanted to excite the reader with the therapeutic prospects of this technology, now and in the future, but I also wanted the reader to be aware of the problems, disappointments, and illicit use of stem cells that threaten the potential of regenerative medicine to lead to drug discovery and the novel cell therapies that stand to revolutionize the treatment of many diseases.
The work is also accompanied by a podcast interview with Blau that describes the difference among embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent cells and tissue-specific, or 'adult' stem cells. In the podcast, Blau also discusses one of the most clinically successful uses of stem cells to treat the debilitating skin disease epidermolysis bullosa.
All together, the effort provides an invaluable resource that I for one am going to bookmark for future reference.
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