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Stem Cell History

The History of Stem Cells and Current Clinical Trials

Along with other important components, your blood contains the building blocks for induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). IPSCs are powerful cells that can be reprogrammed to produce virtually any cell type in the human body—including blood, brain, pancreas, heart, and other cells. This gives them the potential to help treat many diseases, such as certain forms of age-related blindness, Parkinson’s disease, and heart disease.

The use of stem cells—such as iPSCs—has been transforming medical practices and disease treatments for over 50 years and will continue to impact your health and that of others for many more to come.

Stem cells over the years

50+ Years of Stem Cell Research

1950s

1955 – Dr. E. Donnall Thomas began researching the possibility of using bone marrow transplantation to cure humans with life-threatening diseases in the United States.

1959 – Experiments in mice proved the existence of blood stem cells in bone marrow.

1960s

1960 – The first successful bone marrow transplant used the bone marrow from an identical twin to treat the other. 

1980s

1988 – The first successful cord blood transplant was performed.

1990s

1990 – The number of transplants performed annually had expanded to 11,000.

Dr. Thomas earned a Nobel Prize in 1990 for establishing bone marrow transplantation as a successful treatment for leukemia and other blood conditions.

1992 – The first public blood bank for cord blood opened in New York.

2000s

2000 – Adult stem cells were recognized as having the potential to generate various cells for other organs.

2002 – The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISCF) was established.

2006 – Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan succeeded in creating embryonic-like cells from adult cells. His team reprogramed adult cells forming induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).

2009 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the world’s first human clinical trial for pluripotent stem-cell based therapy.

2010s

2014 The first in-human clinical trial iPSC-derived retinal pigmented epithelial cells were transplanted in first patient in a clinical trial to treat macular degeneration.

2016 – Stem cells provided substantial recovery in patients who were disabled by stroke.

2016 – A small-scale study demonstrated the power of stem cells to repair damaged scar tissue caused by heart attacks.

2017 – Cambridge scientists reported the development of an artificial mouse embryo using stem cells—a breakthrough in fertility research.

2018 – Mouse and human skin cells were reprogrammed into immune cells to combat cancer.

2020s

2020 – A pre-clinical study of iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitor cells for Parkinson’s disease was completed and approved for phase one clinical trials. 

2021 – Promising early results from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute paved the way for a breakthrough treatment of type 1 diabetes that signify the restoration of insulin-producing islet cells.

Today

Since the early 2000s, cell-based treatments—called cell therapies—have been making substantial progress in a variety of health conditions. To date, several clinical trials involving iPSCs have already started showing positive results in diseases such as macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Current Stem Cell Therapies in Development

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