Martin Dym conducts research on adult stem cells

He said modified adult cells might become an effective alternative to stem cells taken from human embryos.

Martin Dym: The adult stem cells, for example in the skin, produce skin cells. Whereas an embryonic stem cell is capable of producing almost all cells in the body.

Martin Dym conducts research on adult stem cells at Georgetown University. He said modified adult cells – called induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS cells – might become an effective alternative to stem cells – taken from human embryos.

Martin Dym:The embryonic stem cell, since it can give rise to any type of cell in the body, can be used to cure, at least theoretically, any disease of the body.

But the use of embryonic stems cells raises ethical questions. Dym said scientists create the new kind of cell, IPS cell, by adding certain genes to an adult cell.

Martin Dym: So, for example, you can take a skin cell from an adult, put in some genes, and it becomes a pluripotent embryonic stem cell – almost identical to the real embryonic stem cell.

Dym said a big advantage is that these stem cells could be taken directly from the patient and used in their therapy, so their body would not reject the cells

But there’s a possible problem – the genes used to transform the adult stem cells may cause cancer in the cells. That’s one reason Dym said, IPS cells may be 5 to 10 years away from use in clinical trials.

Our thanks to Martin Dym.
Martin Dym is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology
at Georgetown University.

Lindsay Patterson