For the first time human embryonic stem cells have been coaxed into becoming T-cells, suggesting new ways to fight immune disorders including AIDS and the “bubble boy” disease, X-SCID.
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are an attractive source of human T-cells for research and therapy because ESCs can be genetically manipulated with relative ease and can be grown in large quantities.
T-cells are crucial to the working of the immune system. If these cells are destroyed or absent – as occurs during HIV infection and X-SCID, respectively – the body cannot fight off infections. But despite their importance, much about human T-cell function is unknown because the cells are difficult to analyse with standard tools of genetic engineering.
“VIRGIN-BIRTH” embryos have given rise to human embryonic stem cells capable of differentiating into neurons. The embryos were produced by parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction in which eggs can develop into embryos without being fertilised by sperm. The technique could lead to a source of embryonic stem (ES) cells that could be used therapeutically without having to destroy a viable embryo.
Human eggs have two sets of chromosomes until fertilisation, when the second set is usually expelled. If this expulsion is blocked but the egg is accidentally or experimentally activated as if it had been fertilised, a parthenote is formed (see Diagram).
Because some of the genes needed for development are only activated in chromosomes from the sperm, human parthenotes never develop past a few days. This means that stem cells taken from them should bypass ethical objections of harvesting them from embryos with the potential to form human lives, say Fulvio Gandolfi and Tiziana Brevini of the University of Milan, Italy.
This is valueable research. Stem cells will be able to boost our health immensely.
Say goodbye to cumbersome organ transplants and functionally limited artificial prosthesis. With these babies, we can regrow our diseased/damaged/missing limbs and organs.
Science might even find a way to give us periodic stem cell injections using cells that have our own DNA but are younger than the cells in our body. That way, we would progressively grow younger, instead of older. And the concept is fairly simple.
Is immortality around the corner?
The possibilities boggle the mind.
Also see this post about super regenerative mice.