The history of stem cell research is very interesting and rather young, as the first proof of stem cell existence takes place in 1961. Between politics and ethical questioning, stem cell research has hit quite a few bumps in the road but is still said to be “the future of medicine”. Below is a timeline of the history of stem cell research, starting with their proven existence in 1961, and ending in 2009 when President Obama removes barriers for responsible human stem cell research.
1961 – Till and McCulloch prove stem cells exist
Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch studied the effects of radiation on the bone marrow of mice. Their published work discusses the existence of multipotent stem cells.
1968 – First successful bone marrow transplant
Dr. Robert A. Good and his team performed the first successful human bone marrow transplant. A 5-month-old boy with an immune deficiency received a bone marrow transplant from his 8-year-old sister.
1981 – First isolation of embryonic stem cells
In the same year, Dr. Martin Evans of the University of Cambridge and Dr. Gail Martin of the University of California both isolated pluripotent stem cells from mice embryos.
1996 – First mammal cloned
Dr. Ian Wilmut used a nuclear transfer method to clone a sheep named Dolly. A donor cell was taken from a sheep’s udder and fused with an egg cell taken from an adult female sheep using an electric shock. The fused cell became an embryo, was placed into the uterus of a foster mother, and Dolly was born a few months later. Dolly was later unveiled to the public in 1997. This streamlined research in induced pluripotent stem cells. Click here to learn more.
1997 – Proof of cancer stem cells
Dr. Dominique Bonnet and Dr. John Dick found evidence to support the theory of cancer stem cells. The two were studying leukemia at the University of Toronto, and they found that the cancer cells were haematopoietic stem cells, or the types of cells that form our blood cells.
1998 – First isolation of human embryonic stem cells
Dr. James Thomson became the first doctor to isolate human embryonic stem cells and shows their potential to differentiate into different types of tissues.
2006 – Creation of induced pluripotent stem cells
Shinya Yamanaka in Japan revealed “embryonic-like stem cells”, meaning they are adult stem cells that they reprogrammed to function like embryonic stem cells, making them pluripotent. They called these cells induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.
2009 – Obama removes barriers for stem cell research
President Obama issued an executive order that removed the barriers for responsible human stem cell research.
Of course, a lot of monumental stem cell research has taken place since 2009, including the first stem cell treatment for a spinal injury in 2010, an FDA approval for testing stem cell therapy for degenerative eye disease in 2010, and the creation of a human liver from stem cells in 2013. Between the removal of research barriers in 2009 and advances in technology, stem cell research as a whole has blossomed. Today, many people seek stem cell therapy for small things like pain relief with great success.
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