Stem cells, found in most of the multi-cellular organisms, have the ability to renew themselves and differentiate into a diverse range of specialized cell types. Stem cell research, which has now become fairly commonplace today, traces back its origin to the 1800s, when microscope was invented. Since then, it has made a lot of progress, with 2,000 research papers on embryonic and adult stem cells being published in reputed scientific journals every year. As of now, adult stem cells are being used to treat over 100 conditions, including leukemia, Hunter’s syndrome and heart disease. However, embryonic stem cell research is still in its infancy, especially when it is yet to yield any clinical trials. Read on to explore information on the history and origin of stem cell research.
Interesting Information On Background & Origin Of Stem Cell Research
The invention of microscope, in the nineteenth century, generated the interest of scientists in cell biology. Soon, they came to understand the fact that cells are building blocks of life, which can provide them with the key to understanding human development. Along with this, came the realization that some of the cells in the body had the ability to produce other cells as well. Not much time later, scientists tried to fertilize mammalian eggs outside the human body, for the first time, and stem cell research came into being.
With the dawn of the twentieth century, scientists gained the comprehension that there was a particular group of cells that served as the source of various type of blood cells, like white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Soon, these cells came to be known as stem cells. However, it was only in 1963 that Canadian researchers Ernest A McCulloch and James E Till documented the first quantitative descriptions of the self-renewing activities of transplanted mouse bone marrow cells.
The year 1968 saw the first bone marrow transplant of the world being performed successfully. It was undertaken to treat two siblings with severe combined immunodeficiency. By 1978, stem cells had been discovered in human cord blood as well. The decades of 1980s and 1990s witnessed introduction of techniques for targeting and altering genetic material and methods for growing human cells in the laboratory. This led to many new developments in the area of human stem cell research.
In the year 1981, the first in-vitro stem cell line was developed from mice. Seven years later (1988), embryonic stem cell lines were created from a hamster. The first development of 1990s, in context of stem cell research, comprised of the derivation of the first embryonic stem cell line from a primate, in 1995. Two years later, the world witnessed its first case of cloning, where cloned lamb were created from stem cells. The same year, haematopoietic stem cell was found as the origin of leukaemia, indicating possible proof of cancer stem cells
The year 1998 proved to be one of the most significant years in the history of stem cell research. It witnessed James Thomson, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, successfully removing cells from spare embryos at fertility clinics. He then grew them in the laboratory and created the world’s first human embryonic stem cell line (in existence till date). Today, it is believed that embryonic stem cells can become almost any of the specialized cells in the body and thus, have the ability to generate replacement cells for a wide range of tissues and organs in the body, like heart, liver, pancreas and nervous system.