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Stem Cells Take Root in Drug Development

from Nature News

Stem cells have assumed near-mythical status in the popular imagination as a possible cure for every disease under the sun. But while public attention has focused on their potential in regenerative medicine, stem cells have quietly gained a foothold in drug development--a move that may hail a huge but unheralded shake-up of the biological sciences.

"I think there are tremendous parallels to the early days of recombinant DNA in this field," says James Thomson, director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, Wisconsin, and one of the founders of Cellular Dynamics International, also in Madison. "I don't think people appreciated what a broad-ranging tool recombinant DNA was in the middle '70s." At the same time, he says, they underestimated the difficulty of using it in treatments.

Now stem cells are in a similar situation, he says, and although therapeutic use is likely to come to fruition eventually, "people underappreciate how broadly enabling a research tool it is", he says.

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