On Stem Cell Awareness Day, we’ve addressed some myths and facts about stem cells. Share your favorites on Twitter with #StemCellAwarenessDay!
Every year, Stem Cell Awareness Day is a an opportunity for people around the world to highlight the fantastic research into and being enabled by stem cells, as well as draw attention to the effect stem cells have already had on human health. This year, we’ve decided to address some common misconceptions about stem cells.
You can share your favorites, as well as your own myths and facts, on Twitter with #StemCellAwarenessDay!
Myth: All stem cells are the same
Fact: False — there are many kinds of stem cell, which can be grouped by their ability to differentiate into other kinds of cells. They range from totipotent cells, such as those found in a zygote, which can turn into any kind of tissue, to pluripotent cells, multipotent cells, oligopotent cells and finally unipotent cells, which can only differentiate into a single cell type.
Myth: Embryos or fetuses are the only source of therapeutic stem cells
Fact: False — the most common sources of therapeutic stem cells are currently bone marrow1 and cord blood2, both of which are harvested safely from a donor. Other non-destructive sources of stem cells include amniotic fluid and organs such as the brain or intestines contain organ-specific stem cells.
Myth: You can turn cells into stem cells
Fact: True — cells can be induced to become pluripotent cells through the introduction of various transcription factors, such as the Yamanaka factors discovered in 20063, and using other molecules that mimic the effects of these factors, such as ALK5 and MEK inhibitors and certain recombinant proteins.
Myth: Administered stem cells will always migrate to the site of injury
Fact: False — although cell naturally found in your body, such as mesenchymal stem cells, often migrate to injury sites in response to biomarkers of inflammation, this process is not well understood. Infused stem cells can have difficulty migrating due to site of administration, site of injury and short lifespan4.
Myth: Stem cell therapies are proven to work for everyone
Fact: False — although stem cell therapies have been shown to be highly effective for certain specific indications, such as some kinds of leukemia, these trials usually involve small numbers, and they don’t work on every patient. Factors such as the source of the stem cells, the age and health of the patient, indication, conditioning regime and genetics could all affect the success of a potential treatment, and we don’t yet understand why or how significant the effects could be.
Myth: If clinical trials are listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, the trial has been approved by the US government
Fact: False — the US National Library of Medicine, which provides ClinicalTrial.gov, does not verify scientific validity of any of the 278,000 studies listed from over 200 countries. Responsibility for providing this information falls to the trial investigator, so potential patients should be careful and discuss all the options with their healthcare provider before participating.
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- Yan J-D, Cheng-Huang, Wang J-C, Feng X-M, Li Y-N, Xiao H-X. The isolation and cultivation of bone marrow stem cells and evaluation of differences for neural-like cells differentiation under the induction with neurotrophic factors. Cytotechnology. 66(6): 1007—1019 (2014)
- Ilic D, Miere C, Lazic E. Umbilical cord blood stem cells: clinical trials in non-hematological disorders. Br. Med. Bull. 102:1, 43—57 (2012)
- Takahashi K, Yamanaka Y. Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Mouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors. Cell. 126:4, 663-676 (2006)
- Eggenhofer E, Luk F, Dahlke MH, Hoogduijn MJ. The Life and Fate of Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Front Immunol. 5: 148 (2014)