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Stem Cells May Become Greatest Drug-Discovery Tool, Harvard Researcher Says [Video]

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Stem cells have become quite an interesting topic of study for several scientists. This includes researchers at Harvard University, who believe that these cells play a major role in aging and may become a significant drug-discovery tool.

While they may seem as the bearer of potential solutions, stem cells may also be part of the problem. Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, hypothesized that its function deteriorates with age, resulting to events that occur with aging such as limited ability to fully repair or regenerate healthy tissue following injury.

In a post on The Harvard Gazette, it was reported that specific tissues, such as nerve cells, send a signal to other cells that it's time to age. Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Lee Rubin, who directs the Harvard Stem Cell Institute's Therapeutic Screening Center, believes that this may be the key to reverse aging.

It was noted that, by treating these key tissue categories, can reverse aging instead of designing individual treatments for the various tissue types that make up the body. This is because aging involves all tissues in the body at more or less the same rate, regardless of the things that might go wrong in each tissue.

Scadden added that stem cells may have their greatest impact as a drug-discovery tool. It has been known that stem cells can provide replacement parts but they can also contribute to the development of disease models for drug discovery.

Stem cell biology may be used to grow cells that are genetically matched to the patient. With this, researchers can reprogram the cells and inject them into damaged parts. Since the cells would be genetically identical to the patient, they could avoid antirejection drugs for life.

NPR reported that Harvard scientists have called for better rules regarding "synthetic biology" research. In their labs, they are using stem cells, genetics as well as other new bioengineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic the parts of the human body.

Their primary concern is that this may lead into disturbing territory. John Aach, a lecturer in genetics at Harvard Medical School, assisted in writing a paper for journal "eLife" that calls for an international effort to establish guidelines for this type of research.

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