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Benefits of stem cell research form Fact Sheet on Stem Cell Research, Wednesday, April 21, 1999.

Scientists have recently isolated and successfully cultured human pluripotent stem cells1, 2. These human pluripotent stem cells have an unlimited capacity to divide, and the ability to develop into most of the specialized cells or tissues in the body.

This advance represents a major step forward in human biology and has generated much enthusiasm and interest among scientists and the public, particularly patients and their families. Because these cells can give rise to many different types of cells, such as muscle cells, nerve cells, heart cells, blood cells, and others, they are enormously important to science and hold great promise for advances in health care. For example, further research using pluripotent stem cells may help us:

Generate cells and tissue that could be used for transplantation. Pluripotent stem cells may be stimulated to develop into many different specialized cells of the body, which may someday be used as replacement cells and tissue to treat many diseases and conditions including Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Improve our understanding of the complex events that occur during normal human development and also help us understand what goes wrong to cause diseases and conditions such as birth defects and cancer.

Change the way we develop drugs and test them for safety and potential efficacy. New medications could be tested using human pluripotent stem cells, such as liver cells or skin cells; only the drugs which are both safe and appear to have a beneficial effect would graduate to human testing.

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