'On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism' reports Alexis Carrel's 1912 experiments on the maintenance of tissue in culture media. At the time, Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In his paper, Carrel reported that he had successfully maintained tissue cultures, which derived from connective tissues of developing chicks and other tissue sources, by serially culturing them. Among all the tissue cultures Carrel reported, one was maintained for more than two months, whereas previous efforts had only been able to keep tissues in vitro for three to fifteen days. Carrel’s experiments contributed to the development of long-term tissue culture techniques, which were useful in the study of embryology and eventually became instrumental in stem cell research. Despite later evidence to the contrary, Carrel believed that as long as the tissue culture method was accurately applied, tissues kept outside of the organisms should be able to divide indefinitely and have permanent life.

In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reprogrammed mice fibroblast cells, which can produce only other fibroblast cells, to become pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to produce many different types of cells. Takahashi and Yamanaka also experimented with human cell cultures in 2007. Each worked at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. They called the pluripotent stem cells that they produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) because they had induced the adult cells, called differentiated cells, to become pluripotent stem cells through genetic manipulation. Yamanaka received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012, along with John Gurdon, as their work showed scientists how to reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent. Takahashi and Yamanaka's 2006 and 2007 experiments showed that scientists can prompt adult body cells to dedifferentiate, or lose specialized characteristics, and behave similarly to embryonic stem cells (ESCs).

Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary was published in September 1999 by The US National Bioethics Advisory Commission in response to a national debate about whether or not the US federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research. Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research recommended policy to US President William Clinton's administration, which advocated for federal spending on the use of stem research on stem cells that came from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments. Although NBAC's proposals never became legislation, the report helped shape public, private, and international discourse on stem cell research policy.

In 2005, Ernest McCulloch and James Till published the article “Perspectives on the Properties of Stem Cells,” which discusses the various properties and future possibilities for the use of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into several different cell types. In the article published in the journal Nature on 1 October 2005, the authors say they wrote the article to dispel misconceptions about what stem cells are, what they do, address some controversies surrounding stem cells, and discuss potential uses of stem cells. In the article, McCulloch and Till reveal how stem cell research has revolutionized cancer treatment as well as set the stage for future embryonic and adult stem cell research.

In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Gail Roberta Martin specialized in biochemistry and embryology, more specifically cellular communication and the development of organs. In 1981, she named any cell taken from inside a human embryo at the blastocyst stage an “embryonic stem cell”. During development, an embryo goes through the blastocyst stage just before it implants in the uterus. Embryonic stem cells are useful for experiments because they are self-renewing and able to develop into almost any cell type in the body. Martin later identified a key chemical component in limb development and continues to study embryogenesis, or the growth of embryos over time. Martin’s work on embryonic stem cells has allowed scientists to further research and treat human diseases, and her study of how organs form has helped scientists learn about the healthy growth of embryos.

Scientists use cerebral organoids, which are artificially produced miniature organs that represent embryonic or fetal brains and have many properties similar to them, to help them study developmental disorders like microcephaly. In human embryos, cerebral tissue in the form of neuroectoderm appears within the first nine weeks of human development, and it gives rise to the brain and spinal cord. In the twenty-first century, Juergen Knoblich and Madeleine Lancaster at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria, grew cerebral organoids from pluripotent stem cells as a model to study developmental disorders in embryonic and fetal brains. One such disorder is microcephaly, a condition in which brain size and the number of neurons in the brain are abnormally small. Scientists use cerebral organoids, which they've grown in labs, because they provide a manipulable model for studying how neural cells migrate during development, the timing of neural development, and how genetic errors can result in developmental disorders.

Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time. Kaufman also wrote books about UK medical history, phrenology, or the study of craniums as an indicator of character or mental ability, and medical teaching in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Kaufman’s anatomical records and experiments in mouse development contributed to genetic engineering, embryology, and anatomy.

James Edgar Till is a biophysicist known for establishing the existence of stem cells along with Ernest McCulloch in 1963. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can shift, or differentiate, into specialized types of cells and serve as a repair system in the body by dividing indefinitely to replenish other cells. Till’s work with stem cells in bone marrow, which produces the body’s blood cells, helped form the field of modern hematology, a medical discipline that focuses on diseases related to the blood. He also worked on issues in the medical field including patient inclusion in clinical trials, matters of effective and ineffective clinical communication, and limitations of public access to medical and scientific research. Till’s work with stem cells furthered scientists’ understanding of abnormal blood cell development, which helped set the foundation for regenerative medicine.

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