MSC vs ESC Research: The King is Dead, Long Live the King…

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MSC vs ESC research

What’s the status of MSC vs ESC Research? In the early 2000’s, we were all overwhelmed by countless news stories on the miracle of embryonic stem cells. Without getting into the political rift that caused that debate, while the scientific community was hiring PR firms to spin stories about embryonic stem cells, a little known revolution was happening. The number of adult stem cell research articles being published was picking up, so much so that by 2010, the unthinkable happened – embryonic stem cells got knocked from their lofty perch. Now for 5 years running, research volume into adult stem cells has trumped embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are what we all heard about in the early 2000s. They’re the stem cells taken from embryos that sparked such huge controversy. They were also hyped in the media by scientific organizations as being able to make the blind see and the crippled walk. A decade and a half later, those same organizations are still pushing for more research, but in the last 15 years no clinical studies have shown that embryonic stem cells can in fact make the blind see and the crippled walk. While the science groups were pushing ESCs, research on adult stem cells was ramping up. The single biggest category of adult stem cells found in everyone’s body is mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These cells have many of the properties of ESCs, but without the controversy since they’re derived from adult tissue.

I first ran the graph above last year and was surprised that the number of studies per year on MSCs had just eclipsed ESCs. I was curious to see where that trend had headed so I just ran it again. As you can see from the graph above, MSCs not only eclipsed ESCs in annual publishing activity, they sailed right by. The drop off at the end of both curves is due to the fact that the totals for this year were only calculated through the end of September whereas the rest of the data points represent a full year.

The upshot? There’s a new “king of the hill” of the scientific landscape and it’s clearly mesenchymal stem cells. Research on this one adult stem cell type has exploded past embryonic stem cell research. What does this mean for the average patient? Science is telling us with each publication that it’s gotten over embryonic stem cell research like a freshman crush and that it’s now more interested in the stem cells in your body. This must mean that those cells sitting in your tissues have the ability to do some amazing things! `

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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