Mar 6, 2016

Researchers think they’ve just found a new kind of stem cell

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Though their use is marred by controversy and debate, stem cells are one of our best bets when it comes to developing regenerative treatments for a plethora of different conditions. Now, scientists believe they’ve found a brand new type of stem cell hidden in plain sight called XEN, also referred to as iXEN, and it could lead to new ways to study birth defects and reproductive problems.

Before we dive into the latest discovery, it’s worth mentioning how researchers have been using stem cells up to this point. Pluripotent stem cells are so important because they have the potential to develop into every cell in the body, effectively allowing researchers to heal any type of tissue. In the past, these cells were harvested from embryos, but researchers have now figured out how to unlock the potential of pluripotent stem cells using adult cells — avoiding the controversy.

These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) and researchers create them by “reactivating embryonic genes to ‘reprogram’ mature adult cells”. By doing so, researchers can to an extent, control what these cells become, which means they have the power to regrow damaged tissues.

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