Stem Cells Come of Age
Author: Ricki Lewis, PhD
Commercialization of stem cells can potentially help to treat an astounding variety of medical conditions. After a slow start, the stem cell age is finally poised to begin, as numerous factors converge to catapult stem cell technology into the medical mainstream. This report considers:
- The current state of stem cell science and technology
- Supplies and services
- Major applications of stem cell science
- Sources of funding, regulatory hurdles, and the commercial outlook
- IP challenges, public perception, bioethical concerns, and diversity in policies
Stem cell science is on the precipice of becoming big business. These enigmatic cells lie at the heart of a fledgling technology with great clinical promise. Stem Cells Come of Age analyzes the current state of stem cell science and technology, and explores some of the non-scientific issues that are part of the emerging, complex, stem cell picture. We begin by tracing the experiments that set the stage for today’s stem cell technology, as well as examining the state of “stemness” and factors outside the genome that affect cell fate. Human embryonic stem (ES) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are contrasted—while each can become any cell type of the body (i.e., are pluripotent), each has its own niche.
We consider the technological landscape, continuing our look at ES and iPS cells with a description of many types of multipotent, or “adult,” stem cells, which are more restricted in their fates, and how we might use them. We cover the care and feeding of stem cells—their isolation, derivation, culture, and characterization. We explore how stem cells fit into tissue engineering, and then consider suppliers of reagents, devices, and materials.
Stem Cells Come of Age highlights three major applications of stem cell science. In drug discovery and development, stem cells are being used to identify novel drug targets, describe the earliest inklings of disease, and reveal disease subtypes. ES and iPS cells will be particularly valuable in the second major arena for stem cell science, recapitulating pathogenesis in vitro. In the third area, therapeutics, we take a closer look at three therapeutic goals: treating the failing heart, cancer, and eye diseases.
We present a commercial outlook, looking at a mix of areas that are critical to the translation of stem cell science from bench to bedside. Pharma is just beginning to fund stem cell research at academic centers and biotech companies, and venture capitalists are on the lookout for researchers who can succinctly pitch a stem cell-based product or service.
Expert roundtables and exclusive interviews offer the voices of those in the field of stem cell research. These conversations reveal how the people who invented the enabling technologies and have done groundbreaking experiments think and share ideas. Finally, we profile a handful of companies that work with stem cells or supply the tools of the trade, selected for their diversity.