Many cells can reproduce but there are a few types of cells that are not able to reproduce. One of these types are nerve cells, the cells that cary messages from your brain to your body. There are many ways nerve cells can be destroyed or damaged, by trauma or drug use. Millions of people are effected by losing nerve cells and for so long no one could think of a way to recreate them; until the discovery of stem cells.
After fertilization, and when the newly formed zygote is growing, it is made up of a sack of cells. Some of these cells are stem cells which develop according to their environment. Because of the behavior of stem cells, scientists theorized that if they placed stem cells in the brain or spinal chord, two areas that have an abundance of neurons, the stem cells would turn into a neuron because of the environment it was in. But, when they tried introducing stem cells into the body, the immune system treated them as an foreign body, as it should. Our immune system has to treat anything that does not come from our body as an enemy or we could get extremely sick. However, the downside is organ transplants, blood transfusions, etc. are dangerous because they could cause a serious immune rejection.
Cells have a surface protein that displays molecular signals to identify if it is self or foreign. Removing the protein causes NK (natural killer) cells to target the cell as foreign. Scientist haven’t been able to figure out how to make a foreign cell not seem foreign until Lewis Lanier, chair of UCSF’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and his team found a surface protein that, when added to the cell, did not cause any immune response. The idea would be to use CRISPR/cas9 to edit the DNA of the stem cells, and in doing so would remove the code for the current surface protein and add the code for the new surface protein.
After the scientists had edited the stem cells, to have the correct signal protein, they released them into a mouse and observed that there was no immune rejection. Truly amazing. Maybe brain damage could be helped by this science one day. Tell me your thoughts on Stem Cells in the comments!
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