According to recent medical research, it seems that that stem cells are still in fashion. Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Most commonly, stem cells come from two main sources: Embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development and adult tissue.
However, scientists just got a reason to be more cautious than they have in the past. A Harvard team has discovered that five of the 140 human embryonic stem cell lines registered for research use in US labs have cells whose mutations can cause cancer. Two of the lines have been used in human trials, too. None of those patients has developed cancer so far but there’s a “real risk” that it could happen.
This is not going to get the medical community to stop on stem cell research. There’s still some review necessary to decide what would happen next. And there are surley ways to make sure stem cells are healthy before they are used in medicine. Stem cell lines have been in use for the past 20 years.
If this new discovery holds up, researchers may have little choice but to look for mutations through DNA sequencing, which is expensive at about 1000 USD for every genome.
The discovery raises alarms that patients could be treated with stem cells for one disease, such as macular degeneration, only to develop another, cancer.