Will Rye the Genetics Guy

Will Rye the Genetics Guy here with a PSA on induced pluripotent stem cells! You see, audience, induced pluripotent stem cells are stem cells that can come from adults. Prior to the discovery that stem cells could come from adults, science nerds like me only took human embryonic stem cells from human embryos, instead of stem cells from adults. What are stem cells, you ask? Great question! A stem cell is a cell that isn’t really any kind of cell. It’s not a blood cell, it’s not a liver cell, it’s nothing! Some stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can grow into the endoderm, mesoderm, or ectoderm: the germ layers, which are the first layers made up of cells formed during the development of the embryo. Pluripotent stem cells are the results of the process of differentiation, when adult stem cells divide into daughter cells. The newly made daughter cells have been differentiated, meaning that they have become certain cell types instead of stem cells. You may be wondering, fantastic audience, how this affects you in life, if it even can, and what benefits it has. Well, yes, it can! It does affect human life and it has benefits! The reason scientists generate these stem cells is to find out information about… diseases! You see stem cells are generated for both sick and healthy patients. Often, the stem cells from sick patients will have genetic problems or defects that the cells from healthy patients don’t have. Because of this, if scientists see something wrong in stem cells from sick patients that aren’t seen in stem cells from healthy patients, they get the idea that the defect might be what’s causing the disease that the sick patients have. In other words, scientists generate induced pluripotent stem cells to find out what causes certain diseases. These scientists also sometimes use the stem cells from healthy patients in sick patients so they can get better! However, while induced pluripotent stem cells do have their aforementioned benefits, they also have some risks. Oh, no! You see, kids, when scientists generate induced pluripotent stem cells, they use retroviridae, which are viruses that go into a host cell and replicate. Retroviridae put DNA into the genome of the host cell, and the DNA can be put into anywhere in the genome. This DNA might accidentally turn on genes that can cause cancer. Since induced pluripotent stem cells are used on humans, these humans might get cancer, which is bad! On a more happy note, here are some random fun facts about induced pluripotent stem cells. The fact that cells can become manipulated and become pluripotent was discovered by Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon. In 2012, they won the Nobel Prize for this awesome discovery! Interestingly, Shinya Yamanaka initiated this technology at his lab in 2006, 6 years before he got the Nobel Prize! Weird, huh? Now that I’m done with these fun facts, I’d like to bring to light the controversy and ethical concerns surrounding induced pluripotent stem cells. Since induced pluripotent stem cells can come from adult donors, and thus don’t require the destruction of human embryo, which is very controversial, there must not be any controversy over induced pluripotent stem cells, right? No. If an adult donor gives his or her cells to be altered and become pluripotent they could become any of the three germ layers, which could eventually lead to the destruction of human embryo, which would be a clone of the cell donor. Since cloning is already controversial, with some people saying that it interferes with nature, some have expressed concerns about the potential for induced pluripotent stem cells to result in the production of clones. I hope I educated you well about induced pluripotent stem cells. If you would like to learn more about this, call 1-800-WILLRYE. That’s my phone number! Bye.


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