Guest / Limited Access /
Miracle of Science: 65 Diseases Treated With Adult Stem Cells
Image: Photo by Tamara Reynolds

As a young medical student three decades ago, Mark Magnuson learned the basic facts of human development. Among those supposed facts was this one: Adult cells can't change what they are. A heart cell is always a heart cell, a skin cell is always a skin cell.

That's not the case with embryos, whose cells eventually create the entire human body. As embryonic cells divide, they develop distinct identities, becoming heart cells and brain cells and blood cells and every other kind of cell.

It's a process called differentiation. And once it happens, there is no going back. "When I was a medical student, I was taught that a differentiated cell was a differentiated cell," said Magnuson, a professor of medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Stem Cell Biology in Nashville. "That was the end of the line."

Then along came the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS cell), and everything changed. Over the past eight years, a quiet revolution has taken place in stem cell biology as researchers have discovered that they can actually teach old cells new tricks.

They have learned how to reprogram adult cells so that they can do many things an embryonic cell can do. No human embryos are destroyed in the process. Along the way, embryonic stem cells—just a decade ago hailed as the future of medicine—have largely been bypassed. Some researchers still use them, but for now, the future belongs to adult stem cells and iPS cells, which are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to express specific genes.

Every year for the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded more adult stem cell research compared with embryonic research. For 2012, NIH grants totaled $146.5 million ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedOur Plates Runneth Over
Our Plates Runneth Over
For the sake of the church, its mission, and our health, it’s time to talk about our diets.
Trending‘My Pastor Is on the Ashley Madison List.’
‘My Pastor Is on the Ashley Madison List.’
Too many Christians have been caught using Ashley Madison, many of them pastors and church leaders. What now?
Editor's PickWhen Jesus Got the Bible Wrong
When Jesus Got the Bible Wrong
The Messiah made a "mistake" for good reason.
Comments
Christianity Today
Miracle of Science: 65 Diseases Treated With Adult Stem Cells
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.