Posted on January 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Scientists believe stem cells could hold the key to the treatment and cure of more than 70 major diseases and conditions.
From broken hearts to severed spines to damaged brains, the hopes to heal them all could start from stem cells.
"We had a major breakthrough," said Dr. Deepak Srivastava of the Gladstone Institute.
Researchers at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco aren't using embryonic stems cells, or even adult stem cells. Their stem cells come from skin.
"It means in the future one might be able to create new heart cells, new lung cells, new spinal cord cells, starting with your own cells from your skin," said Dr. Srivastava.
They've already been able to turn those cells into beating heart cells. It's called direct reprogramming.
"We've been able to create a beating heart cells that used to be on someone's skin...Which is really like science fiction," said Dr. Srivastava.
In theory, the same approach could repair spinal cord injuries and other damaged body parts.
"We've been working on new methods that can convert cells from the skin to brain cells," said Dr. Sheng Ding.
Dr. Ding says the goal is to be able to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and strokes.
"It's the ultimate in personalized medicine," said Dr. Ding.
Medicine's next big thing, could be just--- skin deep.
Doctors say because they're using a patient's own skin cells, there's little to no chance of rejection.
These skin cells could also be used one day to test a patient's possible response to certain drugs. Allowing doctors to better personalize medicine.