Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are somatic cells that are reprogrammed into becoming stem cells and these can then become a wide range of cells and tissues. The ability to turn, say, skin cells into muscle or nerve cells is the foundation of the emerging field of regenerative medicine.
This case reported by ScienceDaily combined iPSCs with gene therapy (using a technique known as CRISPR-Cas9) to treat a particular type of diabetes. What is interesting about this treatment is that patients suffering from diabetes could be cured and hence no longer need insulin injections. So while it might be an expensive treatment, the long term savings could be significant.
Of course, this is not only of interest for diabetics. My mother, for instance, suffers from a malfunctioning thyroid and need to take medication to cope with it. People like her might benefit of a combination of iPSC and gene therapy.
Swedish scientists used induced stem cells to repair stroke damage is rat brains. This study might lead in the long term to a treatment that replace dead nerve cells with new healthy ones that could substantially improve cognitive recovery of stroke patients. If such treatment would become a reality, the benefits for both patients and society at large would be huge.
Through my volunteer work I know someone who had suffered a stroke about a decade ago. Though he has made a strong recovery ever since (and still makes progress), he has still significant difficulty to express complex ideas. Which is real pity as he still wants to make a positive contribution to society.
The following application of regenerative medicine using iPSCs might be of interest for people like my father who suffer from cardiovascular disease:
Of course, the number of potential application is virtually endless and I could easily list a dozen or two of other studies here. But I would only give one more:
The benefits of this treatment, both for individuals and society, are huge. Or to quote from the article:
The older we get the more our brains will find it difficult to learn and remember new things. […] Identifying the causes underlying cognitive deficits in ageing and rescuing them is crucial for our rapidly ageing societies.
Rejuvenating the human brain will lengthen the productive lifetime of the population and hence lessen the pressure of an aging population. Of course, this still require a great deal of further research.