The Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance that is believed to turn ordinary metals into gold. And in a way, researchers may have found it- a way to turn ordinary cells into extremely valuable new cells that could change the face of medicine.
Believe it or not, plants were the inspiration for this discovery. When exposed to environmental stressors, plant cells can change into immature cells that can develop into completely new plants. So scientists listened to the plants, and decided to see if they could create a similar response when ‘stressing’ mouse cells. And it worked! After trying several different tactics, they found that soaking cells in an acidic solution (think mildly acidic like vinegar, not sulfuric or hydrochloric acid) actually caused them to reprogram.
This breakthrough has enabled researchers to actually create cells that act like stem cells. Stem cells are important because they are flexible enough to be able to develop into any kind of cell (unlike skin cells, muscle cells, liver cells, etc. which already have defined purposes) with the right instructions. The use of stem cells isolated from embryos has been controversial, so this development has really been creating a buzz in the medical community!
Could ‘stressing’ cells help human patients? Is it possible that patients with limb amputations, nerve injuries, or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could benefit from this research? While it’s too early to tell, this is one amazing discovery that’s definitely worth keeping tabs on!