Recently, I was in a meeting at our headquarters in Baltimore, explaining to my editor how excited I was to tell readers about a whole new range of adult stem-cell breakthroughs.
This field of medicine is so exciting it was easy to show how these adult stem cell lines will someday play a vital role in the future of the human race.
These adult stem cell lines are crucial for two reasons:
- First, they're amazing feats of science. Researchers found that they could take adult cells, like those found in your skin, and (through what seems more magic than science), give them almost the same properties as those cells that come from human embryos. That means the cells can grow to become tissue, bones, or even entire organs, like the brain and heart.
- Second, and more to the point, I and millions of others consider this branch of stem-cell science to be ethical. It's not the same as using embryonic stem cells, which can be very divisive since those cells often come from aborted fetuses. Thus, advances derived from these adult stem cells aren't encumbered by a huge and troubling moral debate.
Not long after, we learned that the Nobel committee agrees with me…
Earlier this month, the world's top scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the two men who pioneered the field that (among other things) created the science of adult stem cells.
And let's face it, you cannot find a better scientific "stamp of approval" than the Nobel Prize.
Now, researchers around the world will target adult stem cells with a passion that I predict will lead to a new round of key breakthroughs that will help us live to 100 and remain in robust health all the way there.
Indeed, I already have several new findings I can't wait to share with you.
These include a possible cure for blindness, new ways to combat brain disease, and achievements that will make adult stem cell treatments far healthier.
It's far too much to fit in one article, so I'm going to present it an adult stem cells series:
- Part One: Today, I'll tell you the story behind the winning of the Nobel Prize.
- Part Two: Over the weekend I'll look at a possible cure for age-related blindness.
- Part Three: And I'll conclude on Monday by telling you about even more breakthroughs including something I call the "New Fountain of Youth".
Let's get started…
A Head Spinning Miracle
Until now, scientists believed that only stem cells from fetuses could be used for things like growing replacement organs. In other words, life is a one-way trip, and you can't teach old cells new tricks.
But John B. Gurdon of the U.K. and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan found that mature cells could be returned to an embryonic-like state. After that, the cells could then be coaxed into becoming all other cells that make up the human body.
Gurdon and Yamanaka shared the 2012 Nobel for their work in so-called cellular reprogramming. Their discoveries led to a whole new wave of achievements that include everything from cloning to the possible treatment of diseases using adult stem cells.
Here's how the Wall Street Journal recently described Gordon and Yamanaka's ground-breaking work:
"The ability to pull off this trick – the biological equivalent of turning back time – ranks as one of the more head-spinning feats of modern science. It has triggered the rewriting of biology textbooks and given birth to new areas of research."
It all began in 1962. That's the year Gurdon replaced the nucleus of a frog's egg cell with a nucleus from a mature cell derived from a tadpole's intestine.
As it turned out, the egg not only grew to become a cloned tadpole, but also yielded adult frogs. In other words, the genome of even a mature cell appeared to have all the data it needed to spur its growth into all of the body's parts.
Then, 40 years later, Dr. Yamanaka added dramatic new science to Gurdon's early work. He showed that you could coax older, intact cells into their early state without having to transfer nuclei.
To do so, he inserted several genes into mature human cells. The result stunned the world of science – those mature cells returned to a state very much like those from embryos.
Later work showed that these transformed cells could then grow in a lab dish to become heart, nerve, and other human tissue.
The Tipping Point for Adult Stem Cells is Here
Today, dozens of research teams are looking for ways to turn all this into effective treatments for humans. However, to date, no humans have yet received any treatments based on adult stem cells.
But I have no doubt this this will be a major field in the Era of Radical Change.
I believe we have now passed the tipping point in this field. I predict we will at least see human trials as early as the end of this decade. Not only that, but I think it's only a matter of time until adult stem cells become prime disease fighters for the human race.
They also could lead to the growth of organs for transplant without fear that your body will reject them.
For high-tech investors like us, that means two things.
This field will no doubt improve the lives of hundreds of millions around the world and will lower the cost of health care, leading to higher profit margins for publicly traded med-tech firms.
It also means teams at key research labs will either spin off their discoveries to create new biotech firms or license them to commercial companies.
And what a great "double play" that will turn out to be for investors.
Not only will they score big stock gains along the way, but their lives will greatly improve as well.
Be sure to look for Part Two of the series in your email over the weekend.
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About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.