It is a known fact that we are composed of many different cells. In fact, when we are still in our embryonic state, we already contain various cells. We contain human embryonic stem cells at this stage of our development and they are unspecialized cells that still do not have a definite purpose.
As we grow up, those stem cells will start to form different cells in our bodies including bone, muscle, and fat cells. When we are finally out of the womb, our embryonic stem cells would have differentiated or turn into specialized cells now.
Now, you might have heard of stem cell therapies, right? They are actually the use of stem cells in order to, at least theoretically, treat whatever it is that ails us. It used to be okay to use human embryonic stem cells but its utilization was halted due to the fact that the origin of these cells come from discarded human embryos.
So, what scientists did was they worked with adult stem cells and they are looking for ways to make it more potent for use in therapies.
The biggest limitation of adult stem cells is that they contain paracrine factors. Okay, that sounds too technical, but just think about this: whenever you extract said stem cells from the body, it only turns into the cells from which they came from.
For instance, if you were to extract stem cells from the skin, those cells will turn into skin cells and the cells that surround your largest organ and nothing else.
This proved to be such a huge limitation in the field of regenerative medicine because adult stem cells, at least before were a bit useless for use in treatments. But, that all changed thanks to the research done by Shinya Yamanaka back in 2006.
The use of adult stem cells, in and of itself, can prove to be a detriment in the scientific sense due to its limitation in terms of differentiation. So, Yamanaka and his team removed some stem cells from adult humans and reprogrammed them to have this characteristic of pluripotency that is found in hESCs.
This actually succeeded and the resulting cells were called human induced pluripotent stem cells. His research actually awarded him with a Nobel Prize.
Thea Tisty, a molecular pathologist, and her team made a huge discovery. She is always fascinated by the human breast’s ability to heal quickly when subjected to a traumatic event that resulted in an injury.
So, he took some cells from the site near the breast area and found that 1 in every 10,000 breast cells are a new kind of stem cell that was not known before. She now calls it endogenous pluripotent stem cells.
To help test these cells, she and her team put those cells in a petri dish that is filled with growth factors and various other nutrients and allow it to stew there for a couple of days.
After waiting, the cells turned into heart muscle cells that actually beat inside the petri dish. If other researchers can replicate the study and would also add their own spin to it, they might be able to create heart muscle cells from the now-called endogenous pluripotent stem cells.