• Question: I understand that the medical advances in stem cell research means that embryonic stem cells can develop into any specialised cell but what if the body rejects the new stem cells or would they be taken from the patients healthy stem cells?

    Asked by rochelle1999 to Anita, David, Karolina, Matt, Samantha on 4 Feb 2014.
    • Photo: Samantha Hughes

      Samantha Hughes answered on 4 Feb 2014:

      Rochelle – embryonic stem cells are great as they have the ability to become (differentiate) into any cell type and thus making a whole person. To make stem cells for a person, you would take cells from the patient and “trick” the cells into thinking they are embryonic again. This process means that there is no possibility of rejection as the original cell is from the person. This is called induced pluripotency or iPS and the 2012 Nobel Prize went to John Gurdon and Shinya Yamamata for their research into this.

    • Photo: Matthew Tomlinson

      Matthew Tomlinson answered on 4 Feb 2014:

      I would just add that there was a paper published last week which gave details of experiments which had made cells like the iPS cells Sam mentioned, but these were made by treating the cells with a slightly acidic solution, and not much more. If these STAP cells are real, then this could be a huge leap forward because it would make the process of making personallised stem cells a whole lot easier. These cells would likely have a very reduced chance of rejection.

      And there is always the possibility of using a patients own adult stem cells to treat disease, if they are usable these cells would not cause an immune response.