If there’s one thing we’re all entangled with, it’s our skin, and this valuable outer covering may eventually be able to help us to find cures that will save our lives in many different ways, from curing cancer to repairing our spinal cords so paralyzed people can walk again. How? Stem cells! We are learning more and more new ways to heal ourselves–and our planet (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show).
Our skin is the largest organ on our body and it’s also one of the few organs that we are able to lose pieces of since it (mostly always) regenerates. It also contains a number of different types of stem cells, which are are less likely to be rejected since they are from the donor’s own body (unlike stem cells taken from embryos).
For instance, a research team has used skin cells to create the brain nerve cells that die in Parkinson’s. By In BBC News, Jane Elliott quotes researcher Sheila MacNeil as saying, “There is the potential to take a biopsy of skin from a patient with disease, culture the cells, alter them to make them grow into tissues you are interested in and also use them to study the basis of the genetic disease and then to design therapies that you can put back into the patient. We could be there in 5 years time for diseases which are well understood, like Parkinson’s, and for other diseases where they are less well understood, 10 years.”
Elliott quotes researcher Fiona Watt as saying, “We are very interested in developing regenerative medicine as a way to heal our bodies when they can’t heal themselves– when the damage from an injury or disease is too severe. People have woken up to the idea that the skin has cells that can be turned into nerve cells and this could be a way to expand nerve cells to treat spinal cord injuries.”
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