Stem Cell Biology
Stem cells are a specific type of cell capable of evolving into many different types of specialized cells within the body. There are three primary types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells are characterized as pluripotent in nature—capable of developing into the two hundred or so specialized cells of the adult organism; adult stem cells exist within certain tissues of the body (for example, blood and bone marrow) and carry out repair and regenerative functions; and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult stem cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells.
Due to their ability to repair, regenerate, and develop into certain specialized cell types, stem cells offer great promise as therapy for a number of diseases. Many of the Institutes and Centers of the Intramural Research Program (IRP) have a dedicated stem cell research program, including the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Areas of active research on stem cell biology within these programs include:
- Treating liver disease with stem cells that have been manipulated to become specialized liver cells
- Creating stem cell-derived neurons for the study of motor neuron disease
- Creating insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells for clinical trials in diabetes
- Stimulating an anti-brain tumor immune response via manipulated stem cells
- Investigating the use of stem cells to study and treat Gaucher disease and parkinsonism
- Reprogramming tumor-specific immune cells from stem cells for cancer immunotherapy
- Manipulating stem cells to become bone and cartilage
Additionally, the NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) is a resource that provides infrastructure to accelerate the clinical translation of stem cell-based therapies—at any one time, around 100 clinical trials investigating the use of stem cells as therapies are ongoing at the NIH Clinical Center.
In addition to the research programs within the IRP, the NIH Stem Cell Interest Group was established to enhance communication and collaboration among scientist interested in stem cells. Visit the Stem Cell Interest Group Web site to learn more.