Stem cells can now be made from a person’s own skin.
Nowadays, scientists can take skin cells, reprogram them back into stem cells, and from there, grow them into heart, blood, pancreas, neuron and liver cells.
“It’s crazy exciting,” says Maryam Faiz, a post-doctoral student in neuroscience at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network in Toronto.
Not long ago, the only known source of stem cells was embryonic tissue.
The drawbacks to this type of cell were a risk of rejection and ethical issues associated with using embryos.
These new cells —called induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) — don’t have these limitations.
IPSCs are being used to understand diseases like Parkinson’s.
Scientists can take the skin cells of a Parkinson’s patient, turn them back into stem cells, and then make neuron cells that actually contain the genetic code for Parkinson’s.
“There will not be treatments for a long time, but this is an amazing research tool,” says Faiz.
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