January 19, 2015

Induced pluripotent stem cells are lab-manipulated adult stem cells that have been transformed into a much more diverse and powerful type of stem cell. Adult stem cells include those found in areas such as bone marrow and cord blood, to name a few. Advances made in stem cell research over the past several decades have resulted in new discoveries and incredible innovations in the field of medicine. By harnessing and improving on the already powerful life-saving potential of these tiny cells, researchers are giving hope to patients who previously had little or none. It means treatments and cures for diseases that had been, until recently, incurable. In essence, discovering the power and versatility of stem cells has forever changed the medical treatment landscape.

An induced pluripotent stem cell treatment that could potentially be one of the newest medical breakthroughs is one being studied to combat heart disease. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, heart disease is THE leading cause of death in the United States1. The prevalence and mortality rate of the disease are why researchers have such a vested interest in finding a cure.

An example of a team working towards that goal are researchers from Osaka University in Japan. The team announced in January that they had achieved success in a recent cardiac-animal study involving modified adult stem cells and that human trials using the same techniques were the next step. This is exciting news in the medical research field – a discovery that could lead to potentially life-changing and life-saving treatments for heart disease patients.

For the study, myocardial (heart muscle tissue) cells sheets were successfully created from induced pluripotent stem cells2 and implanted into the cardiac muscles of rats. After one month, the rats were examined via X-ray and the results observed by the team were groundbreaking. While previous studies had shown that myocardial cells could improve heart function, this was the first time ever to show proof that transplanted myocardial cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells could integrate successfully into the cardiac muscle and become a part of its primary functionality. This discovery is possibly just the tip of the iceberg as far as adult stem cells’ potential in fighting heart disease.

The versatility and adaptability of adult stem cells are leading many families to choose cord blood banking, due to the large number of stem cells found in a newborn’s leftover umbilical cord blood. Cord blood banking ensures families will always have perfectly matched stem cells for their child if they are ever needed for medical treatments at any time in their life.

  • Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009[PDF-2M]. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2011;60(3).
  • Indo Asian News Service; iPS-Derived Cells Assimilable with Heart Tissues: Researchers. IANS India Private Limited/Yahoo India News. Jan 27, 2015. Found online: http://goo.gl/1Ydt8l
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