Japanese scientists have found that stem cell production is as easy as dipping blood cells into acid. STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) is a cell reprogramming method that has successfully reverted blood cells in mice back into stem cells with only a low pH shock of acid.
The discovery was published in January’s issue of Nature Magazine and research is already underway for use on human blood cells. These findings could make stem cell production more cost-effective, which can lead to greater innovation within various fields of medical treatments.
Stem cells can become any kind of cell or tissue that a particular body needs for regenerative purposes. They fall into three categories: totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent. Adult stem cells are multipotent and can only develop into more than one cell type. Embryonic stem cells are split among the former two, depending on how many cell divisions they’ve had post-fertilization. Totipotents are able to give rise to any kind of cell or organism, while pluripotents can give rise to any tissue type, but not an organism.
While embryonic stem cells are considered the most prized and stable stem cells for research and medical purposes, the means to obtain them is often subject to controversy ethically and politically. At present, adult stem cells aren’t as flexible as their embryonic counterparts, yet the STAP breakthrough indicates that this could make adult stem cells a more viable option for personalized cell therapy.
Being able to streamline stem cell production to a simple conversion rate yields fascinating possibilities for the future of stem cell production. On a grander scale, the new-found versatility of adult stem cell conversion means wonders for patients. Services like bone regeneration, muscle repair, insulin cells or organ transplants will become more available and accessible, along with treatments for cancers ranging from leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. The influx of stem cell creation that this scientific breakthrough promises will overall make our society much healthier.
Artificial meat, made entirely out of muscle stem cells, has serious potential but is currently limited by extremely high production costs. The average cost of one of these meat patties is over $30,000. With the world’s population expanding exponentially, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the World Nations projects global meat consumption to double in 2050. Our ability to mass produce stem cells with the STAP method would ensure artificial meat creation is less expensive and curtail the impending global meat crisis.