By Melinda Bonnie Fagan (auth.)
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Additional info for Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood
8. 2 Stem cell basics A brief introduction to the basic ideas, methods, and terminology of stem cell biology will set the stage. The following is a standard introductory Stem Cell Concepts 17 treatment, hewing closely to those provided by scientific organizations, reviews, and prominent textbooks – also the sources of definitions such as (a)–(d) above. 2, where my own analysis begins. Stem cells are defined as unspecialized cells that can both self-renew and differentiate, that is give rise to both other stem cells and more specialized cells.
Measured characters, such as shape and surface molecule expression, are attributes of individual cells (R1). But, manipulations are performed mainly on cell populations (R2) and determination of pluripotency hinges on similarity to more specialized cell types (R3). Overall, criteria used to identify iPSC as stem cells were based on prior experiments identifying ESC. In this sense, the iPSC method rests on an earlier exemplar. 2 Human embryonic stem cells (1990s) Human embryonic stem cell lines (hESC) were first derived from human blastocysts by a multi-investigator group led by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin (Thomson et al.
Consider a population of cells that are morphologically indistinguishable, lack specialized traits, and divide asymmetrically to give rise to offspring like themselves and more specialized offspring. Suppose that some cells in the population cycle rapidly for six months and then die, while others cycle slowly but with no limit on lifespan. For τ < 6 months, both satisfy the abstract model’s definition of stem cell. But, for τ > 6 months, only the cells with unlimited lifespan fit the model. With longer durations, the character of self-renewal can distinguish more levels of cell hierarchy.