The use of stem cells has been strictly prohibited in human germ line gene therapy, wherein changes are made to the DNA that will be passed on to the next generation, and human cloning; use of gene modified human embryos; breeding of animals in which any type of human stem cells have been introduced at any stage of development, etc.
Stem cells have the ability to develop into other cell types, and existing stem cell lines are already extremely useful for research into development, disease and treatments. It is not now possible for them to form every type of cell since they are already excluded from developing certain cell lineages. In contrast, ES cells are usually taken from around the 100-cell stage in development. They grew these early cells in a special growth condition that inhibited key development signals and pathways.
In typical stem cell therapy protocols, doctors isolate stem cells from the marrow or other sources and inject them in the hope that the cells differentiate into the desired cell type and help the body regain lost functions.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom and their collaborators have developed what could potentially be a tabula rasa, or clean slate, for stem cells, which could allow any type of cells to grow and develop.
The guidelines, revised after about a decade, approve the therapeutic use of stem cells - progenitor cells that have the capacity to turn into diverse types of cells in the body - for only limited sets of diseases, mainly blood disorders and some cancers. It is possible to establish three different types of stem cells - including ES cells - from these three cell types in the blastocyst. In the case of this study, it was mice. "This new method of producing stem cells could be enormously helpful for studying development, more efficiently generating functional human cells, and researching treatments for pregnancy problems such as pre-eclampsia and miscarriages".
Already, scientists have been able to achieve quite a lot using available ES and iPS cells. This breakthrough study is published today in the journal Nature, and it shows how researchers, for the first time, created what's known as Expanded Potential Stem Cells (EPSCs) in mice.
Professor Hiro Nakauchi, a co-author on the paper from Stanford University, said: "This is a fantastic achievement, by working with the very earliest cells, this study has created stem cell lines that can form both embryonic and all the extra-embryonic cells".
The council today also released the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research 2017 for all stakeholders including individual and organisations associated with basic and clinical research on stem cells and their derivatives. "Further research in this area is vital, so that we can properly explore the potential of these cells", he added.