US News and World Report: Stem Cells May Hold the Fix

Believe it or not, the cure to what ails you could already be inside you. Welcome to the dawning world of stem cell therapy, in which researchers are exploring the possibilities of growing new body parts and healing old ones by using patients’ own stem cells. The idea is that these unspecialized cells (which can also be harvested from a donor) can be induced to develop into heart or lung or brain cells, say, and be injected to replace those damaged by disease or injury. While bone marrow stem cell therapies for certain cancers date back several decades, the approach is now being used or studied for a wide array of diseases and injuries.

“Stem cells could be the new antibiotics,” says Joshua Hare, director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “When you put the pieces of the puzzle together, stem cells could touch just about every area of medicine.”

For the record: The cells Hare is talking about are not taken from embryos, a practice mired in controversy. They come from an adult’s body tissue, usually the bone marrow, fat or skin. These “master cells” operate as a kind of internal repair system because they can replicate in a continuous fashion to replenish other cells or morph into cells with specialized functions.

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