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Stem Cells - The Clinician's 'Philosopher's Stone'

2001 saw an explosion of interest in stem cells, both in scientific literature and the popular press. Much of this revolved around emotive issues related to manipulation of the pluripotentiality (ability to produce many cell types) of either embryonic or adult stem cells. However, there is still a poor appreciation among the commercial scientific community of the importance of adult tissue stem cells in normal tissue homeostasis and how drugs affect their behaviour. A thorough preclinical evaluation of the effects of potential new drugs on these adult tissue stem cells can reveal mechanisms of action that can significantly improve the efficacy of clinical trials and reduce late stage drug failure.

The Definition and Importance of Stem Cells in Tissue Homeostasis

The fertilised zygote is the ultimate totipotential (capable of making all cell types) stem cell, capable of forming all the differentiated cells and tissues of the body according to strict temporal and spatial controls. The factors that regulate these processes during development are only beginning to be understood. The early divisions of the zygote during development produce further totipotent stem cells and - at least up to the blastocyst stage - cells of the inner cell mass can be isolated, grown and expanded in culture as embryonic stem (ES) cells.


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By Professor Christopher Potten, Founder of EpiStem Ltd

Professor Christopher Potten is an Emeritus Professor of the UK Cancer Research Campaign, Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Manchester University and a Founder of EpiStem Ltd, a specialist preclinical CRO.

He is a world expert in epithelial stem cell biology and apoptosis, publishing around 400 papers in these areas, and over recent years has assisted many pharmaceutical companies in evaluating their novel anti-cancer and mucositis therapies.

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Professor Christopher Potten
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