Stem Cells – Hype Vs Hope

Today I was at York University to hear two lectures, one about histones, and the second one about stem cell research. The first one might as well have been in German, because I didn’t catch any of it, however, the second one was quite interesting. The lecture was by Janet Rossant, the Chief Of Research at Sick Kids Hospital. I decided to post the main topics of her lecture here, as I believe they will be quite interesting for everyone.

What Are Stem Cells?

A stem cell is a cell that can divide indefinitely, producing copies of itself, as well as specialized cells. This means that a stem cell can divide to produce another stem cell, but also to create a blood cell, brain cell, etc. Which means that we can use stem cells to produce any kind of tissue, to repair any organ. This can provide a cure for diseases like: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Spinal Cord Injuries and more.


Pluripotent Stem Cells: These cells are typically found in embryos and they can divide to produce any cell in the organism’s body (even fat cells, even though that’s not very useful in most cases).

Restricted Stem Cells: These stem cells can only make one or a few kinds of other cells, these are found in bone marrow and skin.


Stem cell research is considered a very controversial topic, because to produce human stem cells, human embryos are used, which is essentially an undeveloped baby. However, it should be noted that the embryos used are actually taken from In Vitro clinics. These embryos WOULD NOT be a baby eventually. They were intended to be implanted in a woman, but were not used. Otherwise, they would not be used at all, likely frozen for future use. Instead, they are used for Stem Cell research.

Note: Stem Cell research is only legal in Canada with special permits, so to quote Dr. Rossant: If you were going to clone someone in your basement, you should reconsider.

Other Sources of Stem Cells

  • SKP cells from skin
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Reprogramming adult cells (if you modify certain adult cells, you can actually change them into Stem Cells. This would make adaptation a lot easier, and this is being researched)


  • Stem cell growth may become uncontrolled in the body (this usually does not happen, however it is a risk. Ironically, stem cells can be regarded as a kind of cancer)
  • The body may reject Stem Cells if they are taken from another individual



6 Responses to “Stem Cells – Hype Vs Hope”

  1. 1 joshh October 25, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    your notes > mine so im using these if she gives us a test.

  2. 2 happyatom October 25, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    A test? Are you shitting me? If she gives us a test, I’m gonna be pretty damn angry.

  3. 3 teengle October 25, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    wait we learned all that in Bio so if u had taken bio gosh it would not have taken a lecture to learn all that 😀
    interesting post tho

  4. 4 happyatom October 25, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    But.. then I wouldn’t get to miss school?

  5. 5 em October 26, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    im doing stemcell research for my isp project in bio..:)
    how stem cells can cure spinal cord injuries, add that to ur list of what it helps!:)

    really interesting topic!

  6. 6 happyatom October 26, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Yep, you’re right, that was mentioned in the lecture, with a picture of Christoper Reeve, I just forgot to put it in, thanks.

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