The value of stem cells
Each and every day, scientists across the world conduct stem cell research that informs our understanding of the human body and how we approach medicine.
These are just a few of the ways stem cells are being used:
- To study normal human development. Scientists are investigating how stem cells form tissues and organs, how aging impacts their function and their role in various diseases and conditions. A better understanding of the inner working of living organisms leads to earlier detection, better diagnosis and more effective treatments for diseases and injury.
- In drug discovery, which is the process by which new drugs are identified for a particular disease. Scientists can use stem cells, or tissues grown from them, to search for new drugs that improve their function or alter the progress of disease, as well as to test how drugs might affect different organs (for example, the liver or the kidneys), or how they might affect different people.
- For cell replacement. Scientists are exploring how to use stem cells to generate tissue that, when transplanted, will take the place of tissue damaged by disease, aging or injury. For example, transplantation of healthy retinal pigment epithelial cells to the eye to replace those lost in macular degeneration is now being tested in clinical trials.
- For endogenous, or self, repair. Scientists are also exploring ways to stimulate self-repair, coaxing stem cells in the human body to generate healthy cells to heal damaged tissue from within or to prevent further damage.
Stem cell research holds tremendous promise for medical treatments, but scientists still have much to learn about how stem cells, and the specialized cells they generate, work in the body and their capacity for healing. Learn more about clinical translation, the process through which science becomes medicine, here.