Summary of The Cost of Perpetual Youth

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Professor Thomas P. Zwaka discusses the findings and implications of research studies on stem cells. The topic is popular, as people hope stem cell therapy will ignite a breakthrough in medicine. The author provides some background on the biology of stem cells and embeds the research findings in a broader context. He even questions the relevance of foreign elements that invaded our genomes millions of years ago. getAbstract recommends this article to anyone interested in stem cell research.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why scientists are interested in pluripotent stem cells;
  • Why attempts to prolong the pluripotency of stem cells have caused adverse effects; and
  • How ancient elements of our genomes – normally suppressed – come into action during early embryonic development.
 

About the Author

Professor Thomas P. Zwaka works at the Black Family Stem Cell Institute, the Huffington Foundation Center for Cell-Based Research in Parkinson’s Disease, and the Department of Cell, Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

 

Summary

What is special about pluripotent stem cells?

During a critical stage in embryonic development, pluripotent stem cells can become any type of cell. This so-called pluripotency stage is transient. In mice, for example, it lasts only a few hours. Scientists can prolong this stage in stem cells cultured under laboratory conditions – in vitro – using a drug cocktail called 2i. It protects pluripotent stem cells from differentiating into specialized cell types by blocking certain kinase enzymes. Researchers hope stem cells will help treat diseases by replacing damaged cells.

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