Stem cells have always been in the spotlight as one of the most exciting and controversial research in the science community. The most heated debates were centered on the ethical use of embryonic stem cells which was used as a weapon in the political debate from 2001 to 2007 – I'm sure that many of us can recall the fiery debates when former President Bush vetoed the embryonic stem cell bill in '06 and â07. However the stem cell dispute came to an abrupt end when a Japanese researcher team led by Shinya Yamanaka, publicized their revolutionary discovery of creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from adult stem cells – thank you epigenetics!
Today scientists are able to derive adult stem cells from sources such as bone marrow, adipose tissue and blood, however, the concern isn't about the source anymore. While stem cells have certainly captured the public's support and optimism with its potential cures, investors are still hesitant to finance stem cell studies, even the ones nearing market such as Aastrom, Mesoblast, Osiris and Organogenesis. I understand where the investors are coming from, the studies and clinical trials necessary to develop cell therapies require much time, effort, money and to top it all, much risk. There hasn't been any successful stem cell therapy in the market. We may hear of some celebrated treatments from un-regulated or less stringent markets but the safety, efficacy and sustainability are not monitored so no one really knows just how viable those are.
Given that there isn't a stem cell therapy that has proven its marketability to this day, which makes no influx of resources plausible; the future of stem cell therapies doesn't look too bright. Despite this, studies and development carry on as the science is good. It's really just a sector wrought with various and numerous challenges; just as any ground-breaking discovery has its birth pangs. Don't lose hope as the future of cures for unmet medical needs may very well lie in cell therapies.
Join biotechs at the Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress as we unravel strategies to overcome this major challenge faced by the industry.