There's an enduring mystique about stem cells. One that relates to the sense of an utterly simple functionality—what they do, which is to say, they are a factory that can produce all the cells and tissues the body requires. The other is of mind-boggling complication—how they do it; which is, the different kinds of blood, muscle and skin cells all stemming from a group of basic cells we are born with and which keep us going...repairing, replenishing, regenerating. These are the adult stem cells. The master keys they use to make all these other specialised tissues have been the subject of intense research for decades. Remember Dolly the sheep—the first mammal to be cloned nearly 25 years ago from an adult stem cell.
Not long after that, scientists figured out how to re-programme an adult stem cell to generate what’s called an induced-pluripotent stem cell—a cell that’s made to go back into its embryonic state, pressing the rewind button as it were by inserting genetic material into it. From there, it can be used grow out into any type of cell. For years, these have held out the promise of a cure for many diseases—there are advanced trials going on in various centres in the world, even if everyday use in hospitals as clinical therapy is still quite a way off.