Recent news has been bright for stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine. Last June, scientists announced the creation of Expanded Potential Stem Cells (EPSCs). The cells are found in both pigs and humans. The beauty of these new stem cells is they have the features of the first cells in a new embryo. This gives them the ability to develop into a variety of cells. Embryonic stem cells are the most potent type of stem cell (opposed to adult stem cells) because they have the most potential to differentiate and proliferate. But there are obvious ethical issues for harvesting them for stem cell treatments. Medical professionals are constantly searching for new, less questionable sources of stem cells that still have a high enough differentiating ability to be effective in stem cell therapies.
The discovery “offers incredible potential for studying human development and regenerative medicine,” MedicalXpress.com reported. The study was first published in Nature Cell Biology.
The discovery was the result of collaborative studies by the LKS Faculty of Medicine at The University of Hong Kong (HKUMed), the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut in Germany.
An Incredible Step Forward in Regenerative Medicine
It’s the first time researchers have managed to harvest stem cells from the embryos of pigs.
“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,” MedicalXpress.com explains. “However, currently available types of stem cell lines have limitations, and until now it has also not been possible to create embryonic stem cells from pigs and many other farm animals.”
ESPCs Offer New Potential for Food Production
The findings are not only great news for regenerative medicine but for food production as well. The discovery will increase the viability of lab-grown meat as a solution to food shortages in the face of climate change and an overpopulated planet. Lab-derived animal and human cell products are much less controversial, ethically, because they’re created in circumstances that would not support natural life. Specifically, these EPSCs are taken from a group of cells that resembles an embryo – much like those used in IVF. They’re not taken from a pregnant mother – human or pig.
“Scientists have been attempting to derive porcine embryonic stem cells for decades without much success,” stated Professor Pentao Liu, a leader in the study. “With our Expanded Potential Stem Cell technology, we have now successfully derived and characterized stem cells from porcine pre-implantation embryos. We have also established similar human stem cells. Our study represents a significant advance in stem cell research.”
Potential for New Developments in Stem Cell Treatment for Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
But the discovery also shows incredible promise for other stem cell applications such as regenerative medicine, stem cell treatments for knee, neck, back pain, and more.
“Our porcine EPSCs isolated from pig embryos are the first well-characterized pig cell lines worldwide,” stated Dr. Monika Nowak-Imialek, an author on the paper from the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) in Germany. “EPSC’s great potential to develop into any type of cell provides important implications for developmental biology, regenerative medicine, organ transplantation, disease modeling, and screening for drugs.”
Because blastocyst-derived stem cells have virtually unlimited ability to proliferate, they have the ability to supercharge the stem cell therapies currently available to the public. Regenerative medicine doctors should always be on the lookout for new developments in the field of stem cell research, as it often has direct implications on the stem cell treatments and treatment methods they offer their patients. It will be exciting to see where researchers go with these newly discovered ESPCs.