Over the past decade researchers have gained ever more expertise in reprogramming cells from one type to another. The most useful form of reprogramming devised so far is the change from normal differentiated somatic cell, fixed in its role, to pluripotent stem cell, capable of generating any type of cell given the right instructions. Surprising recent developments in this line of research include (a) evidence that performing this transformation in a living animal is beneficial rather than cancerous, producing effects similar to those resulting from a stem cell transplant, and (b) that reprogramming cells to pluripotency erases some of the markers of age in cells from old tissues.
This repair is thought to be much the same process as takes place in early embryonic development: the mechanism by which old parents can produce young children, or perhaps conceptually similar to the constant, aggressive repair and regeneration that takes place in the immortal hydra. What can be done with this knowledge? Can portions of these mechanisms be split off from the whole, understood, tamed, and selectively applied? Will that replace the current paradigm for regenerative medicine in
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