A very important breakthrough came two years ago with the discovery that adult multipotent adult stem cells can be induced, by the addition of transcription factors, to convert into pluripotent cells (Takahashi, Tanabe and Ohnuki). These cells came to be known as induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells.
Research of iPS cell technology must be promoted because of the many advantages of using iPS cells compared to the other stem cell types. The first major advantage is the use of somatic tissues instead of embryos as sources. Various types of somatic tissues can be used as sources of iPS cells for the repair of damaged tissues (Yu, Vodyanik and Smuga-Otto). Patient-derived somatic cells can produce patient-specific iPS cells that contain the patient’s genetic information. When these iPS cells are used in transplantation to replace diseased cells, the risk for rejection is reduced. Immune rejection is a problem in the use of embryonic stem cells (de Wert and Mummery). Another potential application is to use the iPS cells for constructing specific disease models and screening for effective drugs (Yamanaka). The potential therefore is high for healing degenerative and chronic diseases like cystic fibrosis, chronic heart problems, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many more (Yamanaka).
The advantage of using somatic cells as sources for iPS cells leads to another advantage, which is the removal of the major ethical and moral issues surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. Ethical and moral issues have hounded stem cell research since its potential applications were discovered, most concerning the use of 4-5 day old embryos as sources of embryonic stem cells. Since the embryos die upon the isolation of stem cells, the main ethical questions centered on life and its beginnings. Other issues were on obtaining stem cells from pre-implantation embryos, and if this is the case,