Stem cells are special human cells that can be differentiated into a variety of functional cells under certain conditions, and have the ability to repair or regenerate various diseased tissues. Stem cell research is one of the most dynamic, influential and promising fields of life science research, and it has become the most popular subject in biology and medicine in the 21st century.

As the interface of engineering with the world of stem cells, stem cell engineering has emerged over the past decade as an important field of research and application. Stem cell engineering is a method of using some unique characteristics of stem cells, such as proliferation characteristics, multi-differentiation potential and high order of proliferation and differentiation, to induce directional differentiation of stem cells and change their characteristics.

Activities in this field range from basic stem cell research to the development of models, tools, and enabling technologies, in order to advance stem cell biomanufacturing and the development of stem cell-based products and applications. Researchers and engineers have increasingly developed novel discovery technologies, theoretical approaches, and cell culture systems to promote the development of stem cell research and translate the basic biology of stem cells into therapies and commercial applications.

In recent years, scientists around the world have made great progress in the clinical application of stem cells because of their specific differentiation potential. Up to now, stem cell engineering technology has been reported to be used in the treatment of many diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction, liver failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and has achieved preliminary results.

※ Heart tissue generated from human embryonic stem cells
A team at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology put together a combination of cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells produced from human embryonic stem cells with fibroblasts isolated from mouse embryos to produce highly vascularized tissue. This experiment proved that the possibility of treating heart disease with cell transplantation is enormous. It has long been believed that when heart cells are damaged, they cannot repair themselves, but this discovery may be of great significance to the treatment of one of the world’s main deadly diseases.

※ Generating kidney tissue from pluripotent stem cells
Human kidney tissue can now be generated via the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells are regarded as the best source for producing new kidney tissues for transplantation, which are derived from patients and used as a renal replacement therapy without immunosuppression. This advance is anticipated to facilitate the modeling of human kidney diseases, provide platforms for nephrotoxicity screening, enable cellular therapy, and potentially generate tissue for renal replacement.

※ Islet Stem Cells
Ramiya, a professor at the University of Florida, and his colleagues isolated islet stem cells from the islet ducts of pre-diabetic mice and induced these cells to differentiate into insulin-producing beta cells in vitro. Experiments showed that the transplanted diabetic mice had good control of the blood glucose concentration, while the mice in the control group died of diabetes. This provides an experimental basis for stem cell treatment of diabetes.

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