The history of stem cell research may be quite young but it has contributed to many groundbreaking developments in medicine. Although it has significantly helped in medical research, it is still, to this day, a subject of ethical debate. Here, we are providing you with a timeline of stem cell research and the major developments throughout stem cell research. Hopefully, this can help you understand stem cells better.
History of Stem Cell Research | Understanding the Timeline
1868 – Term Was Coined by Ernst Haeckel
The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel
Discover Ernst Haeckel, the 19th-century artist-biologist who found beauty in even the most unlikely of creatures. This collection features 450 prints from his most important publications. https://t.co/DVK3VQUv4I pic.twitter.com/QN4gOFzem5
— Luis Ruiz (@Haliotis94) November 14, 2017
The term ‘stem cell’ can be traced way back to 1868. Moreover, this was coined by a German biologist, Ernst Haeckel. However, Haeckel did not use this term to refer to the same stem cells we know of today. At the time, science and technology had yet to isolate stem cells for research. Rather, he used this to describe the ancestor cell of all living organisms. Additionally, this term referred to a fertilized egg.
1909 – Alexander Maximow Explores the Concept of Stem Cells
The Russian scientist was able to provide a definition of stem cells much closer to our current understanding of them. Maximow frequently lectured about the ancestor cell from which all blood cells originate. Moreover, he discussed the ability of blood cells to differentiate into different types of cells.
1953 – Leroy Stevens’ Stem Cell Research On Mice
A scientist based in Maine experimented on mice to further the understanding of cancer. In his research, he was able to observe the mixture of differentiated and undifferentiated cells in teratomas. It is through this research that scientists are now able to understand the concept of pluripotent cells. Moreover, these cells can transform into any type of cell in the body.
1957 – Bone Marrow Transplant Attempt
E. Donnall Thomas was a scientist based in Seattle who also maintained a medical practice. He was able to conduct the first attempt at a bone marrow transplant on a human patient. Moreover, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work.
1968 – First Successful Bone Marrow Transplant
Robert A. Good is the first person to successfully conduct a bone marrow transplant. This procedure was done on a child who was suffering from a rare immune deficiency. Additionally, the child’s condition was hereditary and killed many of his family members. Following the transplant, the child was able to have a healthy and full life.
1981 – Isolating Stem Cells
Martin Cambridge and Gail Martin were working on separate projects in 1981. Although separate, these projects shared the same goal of isolating embryonic stem cell lines. Their research was able to isolate these pluripotent stem cells through working with mice embryos. Both researchers were able to successfully isolate embryonic stem cells.
1986 – Converting Cells
Scientists Andrew Lassar and Harold Weintraub also experimented with rodents. Moreover, the researchers were able to successfully produce myoblasts (precursors of muscle cells) from fibroblasts (cells found in certain connective tissue). It is through this study that we are now able to convert one adult cell into another type of adult cell.
1989 – Knockout Mice
The research group of Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, and Oliver Smithies created the first knockout mice. These are specially bred mice that are intentionally missing specific genes. Through studying these mice, scientists were able to understand diseases such as cancer and diabetes on a genetic level. Furthermore, they were able to fine tune creating these knockout mice via embryonic stem cells and homologous recombination.
1996 – Cloning Dolly the Sheep
— Edinburgh News (@edinburghpaper) November 23, 2017
Scientists cloned the first mammal through the use of an adult cell. The said clone was born at the Roslin Institute. The researchers’ objective was to understand the production of medicine in the milk of farm animals.
1997 – Cancer Stem Cells
We arrived at the groundbreaking discovery that cancer grows out of stem cells through Dominique Bonnet and John Dick’s research. Moreover, they were able to come to the conclusion that leukemia originates from the same precursor cells as that of normal healthy blood cells.
1998 – Developing the First Embryonic Stem Cell Line
James Thomson and Jeffrey Jones headed a research team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Moreover, this team was able to isolate human embryonic stem cells to create a stem cell line. Additionally, they were also able to identify the embryonic stem cell’s pluripotent properties. Given this, scientists now understand the great potential of stem cell research in medicine.
2005 – Falsified Findings
Korean scientists falsified research findings in 2005. Their claim was they were able to produce pluripotent stem cells out of unfertilized egg cells. Unfortunately, the Korean scientific community suffered a blow to their credibility in the eyes of the public. Following this incident, people began to feel more doubtful of scientific facts.
2005 – Converting Embryonic Stem Cells
Yuan Wang and George A. Daley were able to publish their findings in 2005. Their research was able to produce blood cells in mice from their embryonic stem cells. Moreover, their findings became crucial in developing the process of stem cell transplantation.
2006 – Induced Pluripotent Cells
Scientists Yamanaka and Takahashi were able to produce induced pluripotent cells through experimenting with rodents. Furthermore, these induced pluripotent cells are important in stem cell research because these are reprogrammed adult cells made to function like embryonic stem cells. Moreover, these are pluripotent cells that do not require fertilization.
2006 – Donor-Matched Embryonic Cells
George Daley and his colleagues continued to experiment with mice. Through their research, they managed to create donor-matched embryonic stem cells by means of parthenogenesis. These cells have the potential to replace embryonic stem cells in treatment and research. Moreover, the research team hopes that their findings will contribute to donor-specific transplants. In using your own cells, the body is less likely to reject the transplant.
2007 – Creation of Human Induced Pluripotent Cells
Three separate research teams were able to create human induced pluripotent cells. These teams were spearheaded by scientists Yamanaka, Thomson, and Daley. Daley’s study, in particular, was the first to harvest a sample immediately upon walk-in rather than having it being frozen prior to use.
2009 – Obama Administration Revises Restrictions
In 2009, then US President Barack Obama allowed for the revision of some of the restrictions on research involving embryonic stem cells. It is through this executive order that stem cell research was able to get more funding and thus be capable of moving forward. Following this, we can expect more groundbreaking developments in the years to come.
For more facts about stem cells, watch this video by SciShow!
Understanding the history of stem cell research is important in the understanding of the latest developments in biomedical technology. Hopefully, given the increase in funding available to stem cell researchers, progress will be consistent and groundbreaking in years to come. Given this, we might just be on the cusp of finding solutions to conditions currently incurable.
What do you think of stem cell research? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!