The topic of stem cells has a high profile in the media. We've made important advances in our scientific understanding, but despite this the clinical applications of stem cells are still in their infancy and most real stem cell therapy carried out today is some form of bone marrow transplantation. At the same time, a scandalous spread of unproven stem cell treatments by private clinics represents a serious problem, with treatments being offered which are backed by limited scientific rationale, and which are at best ineffective, and at worse harmful.
This Very Short Introduction introduces stem cells, exploring what they are, and what scientists do with them. Introducing the different types of stem cells, Jonathan Slack explains how they can be used to treat diseases such as retinal degeneration, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, and spinal trauma. He also discusses the important technique of bone marrow transplantation and some other types of current stem cell therapy, used for the treatment of blindness and of severe burns. Slack warns against fake stem cell treatments and discusses how to distinguish real from fake treatments. He also describes the latest scientific progress in the field, and looks forward to what we can expect to happen in the next few years
1. What are stem cells?
2. Embryonic stem cells
3. Personalised pluripotent stem cells
4. Therapy using pluripotent stem cells
5. Tissue-specific stem cells
6. Therapy using tissue-specific stem cells
7. Expectations: realistic and unrealistic
Jonathan Slack is a developmental and stem cell biologist. He was Director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota 2007-2013, and has written six books, including Essential Developmental Biology, (2001); Genes: A Very Short Introduction, (2014); and The Science of Stem Cells, (2017). Slack is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), was awarded the Waddington Medal of the British Society for Developmental Biology in 2002, and WAS elected a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci) in 2004.