3 Important Things to Know About Stem Cells

(DGIwire) – Imagine a tiny object with the power to transform itself into a vast array of different materials utilized by the human body. It may sound like science fiction, but this is precisely what objects called stem cells are capable of doing. What exactly are stem cells and how can they assist in various therapies? Here are a few brief answers to some of the most fundamental questions.

  • Why are stem cells important? Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells. One of their key potentials is generating new cells and tissues in cell-based therapies.
  • What are some of the challenges involved in stem cell research? To realize the promise of novel cell-based therapies, scientists must be able to manipulate stem cells in specific ways, the NIH notes. These include making them proliferate in sufficient quantities, differentiate into the desired cell types, survive in the recipient after transplant, integrate into the surrounding tissue and function appropriately afterward.
  • What are induced pluripotent stem cells? Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state, reports the NIH. Human iPSCs were first reported in late 2007. “Some iPSCs are transforming research by enabling new approaches for generating disease-specific cell lines,” says Jeffrey Duchemin, President and CEO of Harvard Bioscience. “This can open the door to studying all aspects of a disease.”

According to a recent article on Biocompare.com, one of the principal methods of generating and modifying iPSCs to enhance their value for researchers is electroporation, a process in which an electrical current is applied to cells in order to increase their permeability and add vital proteins and other molecules. The article also notes that new advances in instrumentation are permitting researchers to go far beyond what was ever possible before in terms of utilizing electroporation for this and other tasks.

Harvard Bioscience is one of the companies on the forefront of these advances. A suite of instruments developed by BTX, a division of Harvard Bioscience, provides researchers with a wide variety of electroporation capabilities not only for stem cell research but for a range of other research areas as well. For example, the company’s Gemini Twin Wave electroporators are designed to be a universal solution to deliver molecules of interest to a wide variety of cell and tissue types for many applications, including the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR, whereas the AgilePulse in vivo platform provides a specialized high-performance method of delivering DNA and RNA to skin, muscle and tumor tissues.

“With the power of stem cell research bound to grow even greater in the years ahead, having cutting-edge instrumentation is key for any laboratory that is interested in furthering the state of research knowledge in this area,” adds Duchemin.