The discovery in 1665, by the English scientist Robert Hooke that cells form the basic building-blocks of life has allowed man to commence a long, yet fascinating, journey of scientific study in the quest of understanding his very biological existence. The discovery of biogenesis, where living matter can only arise from preexisting living cells, leaped frogged man’s appreciation from the myths of ignorance into the modern fields of cell and microbiology.
This accelerating journey over the last seventy years with the discovery of the DNA Helix, and its final sequencing with the completion of the Genome project, plus the discovery of stem calls has now not only brought him into deeper understanding of life but has brought him potentially closer to being biologically immortal.
These monumental discoveries will bring profound revolutionary changes not only in medicine but to the very fabric of man’s civilization. Will the child born today escape the destiny of his forefathers by transcending mortality?
We now know that undifferentiated stem cells can not only multiply via cell divisions but that they have the ability to change (differentiate) to become any one of the more than 200 different types of cells that make up the human body. These differentiated (now specialized cells, continue to multiply by division and clone themselves building-up and maintaining every part of the body. Today cell biology is currently focusing on how and when such cell differentiation occurs. What are the determining factors? Such basic scientific knowledge is now currently revolutionizing the entire field of medicine. We are entering a new era, only dreamed about, just 50 years ago in scientific fiction, where we may be able to continuously repair failing tissues and organs, thus driving a wedge in the crack of the door leading to immortality.
We now know that stem cells can be classified into two groups. The first being embryotic stem cells that are totipotent (can be differentiated into any kind of human cell) or adult stem cells, which have a limited availability to transform into those tissues that surround them. Thus embryotic stem cells are ready to burst into any form of human cell types, while adult stem cells stationed around the body are ready to rush forward to repair and maintain their associated tissue types.
Most age-related diseases are associated with a tissue – be it a nerve, an organ or a DNA malfunction which may now with the application of stem cells therapies become treatable. Another remarkable very recent breakthrough in stem cell potency was achieved with the development of ips cell reprogramming technology. This is where a differentiated cell is donated by the patient, for example a normal skin cell (it’s already differentiated into being a skin cell) which is then reprogrammed back into an Induced Pluripotent Stem (IPS) cell. Is this recently developed technology the precursor of selfhealing stem cell therapies in which normal cells are taken from the patient, induced back to being stem cells to later be retrained as a differentiated specialized cell to be reintroduced back into the patient where it’s most needed. In short it is now possible to remove a skin cell, reprogram it to its original stem cell undifferentiated state, then reprogram it again to differentiate it into a needed specialized cell, say a heart valve tissue cell, which would be reintroduced direct into the patient’s heart, without fear of rejection or use of immunosuppressive drugs. These miraculous medical procedures in stem cell therapies are unfolding day by day.
In the not too distant future it’s not that hard to conceive maybe within the next few decades, that the vast majority of illness will be diagnosed and corrected at the cellular level leading to a tremendous leap forward towards meaningful and vibrant longevity.
Adult stem cell banking, a service now being offered in practically every major capital around the world, also offers promises that you too will be able to take full advantage of future medical technologies. At some future date will you be able to reach back in time and retrieve the essence of your youth, in the form of donated stem cells, to aid you in overcoming, by autogenic stem cell infusion, the health threats of the future. Obviously it’s better, in such scientifically changing times, to tread a safe path by literally banking today in order to help overcome yet unforeseen medical problems in the future. Is it not better, even at considerable cost, to err on the side of prudence.
Also will the affluent old be kept alive by donations of compatible Embryotic Stem Cells (ESCS) from the poorer young? Just think of the social upheaval and ethnical debate that awaits this unfolding scientific advance.
Cellular science over the last half century has undeniably made spectacular process towards...