Stem cells have two key characteristics. They are able to self-renew (proliferate without differentiating or aging) and they can differentiate into mature cells of different lineages. These two properties allow stem cells to repair and regenerate tissues and organs. Stem cells also form the corner-stone of tissue engineering. The underlying biological mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and self-renewal are fairly complex and our knowledge of these processes remains very limited. The field of stem cell research has generated a lot of enthusiasm, but this enthusiasm can at times skew the interpretation of the actual scientific findings. The hope of being able to regenerate or rejuvenate tissues taps into the old human quest for immortality. This may be the reason why we often come across reports and discussions suggesting that stem cell therapies have a miracle-like quality and will soon be able to cure most diseases. While the ground-breaking discoveries in stem cell biology are indeed fascinating, it is also important to have a realistic view of stem cell therapies and realize that much of stem cell biology is still in its infancy. Premature attempts to use stem cells for clinical therapies are probably not going to succeed.
This blog will focus on novel developments in stem cell research, regenerative biology and regenerative medicine as well as aging research. The ethical and political issues that revolve around stem cell research will also be discussed. I am also interested in broader questions related to the process of scientific discovery, creativity, peer review and scientific communication, which will be addressed in some of the posts. My blogs and articles that are related to my interests in literature, philosophy, religion and general medical research can be found on my personal blog Fragments of Truth.