Posted: Thu, June 27, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension
by David A. Kekich
Dear Future Centenarian,
What do you know about embryonic stem cells?
Basically, they are pluripotent, which means they can differentiate into any of the over 200 cell types in your body. In fact, they did just that to make you. But do you know WHY they are controversial?
this essay was first posted at MaxLife.org
Sure, we’re all aware of the ethical/political issues they stir. But what you may not know is that they can be dangerous when used therapeutically. The reason for this is Mother Nature has a clever way of helping ensure the vast majority of babies are born healthy.
How does she do that?
She aborts roughly 50% of conceptions. She does that because that’s about how many embryos and fetuses are flawed. If not for the these natural abortions, around half the babies born could be deformed, retarded, blind, terminal or otherwise handicapped.
Yep, half of all conceptions do not come to term. And a good thing too.
So what health assurances do think we’d have if we used embryonic stem cells to treat this or that. None really. By using them, you’d be taking a chance that the cells you got were not viable. Half the time, they’d be perfectly healthy. The other half???
So who wants to flip coins with their medical treatments?
Enter iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). iPS cells are artificially derived from a non-pluripotent (differentiated or specialized) cell such as a skin cell by inducing a “forced” expression of specific genes. So basically, scientists reprogram mature adult stem cells to behave like embryonic stem cells.
This is arguably the hottest segment of international stem cell research. But it too has its problems such as ethical concerns and tough regulatory and potential new scientific hurdles.
Adult Pluripotent Stem Cells (APS Cells).
In recent years a few research groups have claimed to have identified pluripotent stem cells in adult tissue. One such company, Centagen, Inc, claims advantages over the rest of the industry.
In order to be therapeutically useful, any stem cell population needs to be dramatically amplified for maximum efficacy. APS cells are few in number, perhaps as few as 2-5 per million depending on the source (e.g. blood, bone marrow, adipose) and age and condition of the patient. And when they are amplified, two negative things tend to happen. First, they age. In order to amplify the cells, they need to divide. And when they divide, their telomeres shorten.
Second, they tend to lose their pluripotency by turning into specialized cells. Stem cells are tricky to work with and are hard to amplify while maintaining their integrity.
Centagen feels they have a solution. Not only do they believe their technology can give us endless divisions of our adult stem cells without aging them, but they may even be able to lengthen the telomeres, thus making them effectively younger instead of older. In addition they feel they will be able to keep the cells from differentiating.
Finally, the regulatory hurdles may be much lower than those for iPS cells. As iPS cell technologies advance, regulatory hurdles may be lowered. But for now, APS cells seem to be the clear choice should Centagen’s research bear the fruit they anticipate. We may know in a little over a year and almost certainly within two years.