The History of Stem Cells

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    The History of Stem Cells

    Here is an overview of the scientific discoverires and poliical events regarding stem cell research.
  • The Basic Unit of Life

    The Basic Unit of Life
    The cell is determined to be the basic unit of life by scientists Mattias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann (4). This is central to Modern Cell Theory.
  • What's a Stem Cell?

    What's a Stem Cell?
    First used to describe a single cell that then becomes a whole organism, the term "stem cell" first appeared in scientific literature during this time. German biologist, Ernst Haeckel, was one of the first to use such a term (1).
  • Blastocyst Discovered

    Blastocyst Discovered
    The blastocyst is discovered by Belgian zoologist, Edouard Van Eneden (Kelly). A blastocyst is a mammalian embryo that is ready for implantation in to the uterus. The amount of cells contained depends on the species, and it eventually becomes a proper embryo (6).
  • Accidental Discovery

    Accidental Discovery
    Canadian researchers discovered for the first time the self-regenerating component of bone marrow cells in mice. These scientists, Ernest A McCulloch and James E Till, a biophysicist and hematologist respectively, accidentally made their discovery while working in a cancer institute. They published their findings in "Radiation Research” (2).
  • Rabbits?

    Rabbits?
    The United States produces the first report of a rabbit created in vitro fertilization (4).
  • Hematopoietic Cells Discovered

    Hematopoietic Cells Discovered
    Till and McCullough, the scientists who formerly identified the self-renewing components of bone marrow cells, identify the hematopoietic cell. This cell has the ability to regenerate itself and become any type of blood cell (4).
  • Big Year

    Big Year
    The first human egg is fertilized in a test tube by R.G. Edwards and B.D. Bavister (4). Although it did not initially work, it did open doors for later advancements. Additionally, this year saw the first bone marrow transplant performed to successfully treat two siblings who had severe combined immunodeficiency (5).
  • Ban on Federal Funding

    Ban on Federal Funding
    A ban on nearly all federally funded research regarding fetal tissue is implemented by Congress until the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research devises guidelines for it (2).
  • What's the Hold Up?

    What's the Hold Up?
    Despite an ethics board for research on fetal tissue being created and their approval of funding for embryo research, the Department of Health and Human Services still did not lift the ban on funding for fear that it would lead to an increase in abortions (2).
  • It's a Girl!

    It's a Girl!
    Louise Joy Brown is born as the first test tube baby (4).
  • George H.W. Bush

    George H.W. Bush
    Congress tries to override the moratorium on federally funding for embryo research, but President George H.W. Bush vetoes it (2).
  • Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton
    President Clinton issues an executive order that lifts the moratorium on human embryonic research. However, due to the amount of negative feedback he received, in 1994 he reverses this decision (2).
  • Primates and Stem Cells

    Primates and Stem Cells
    The first embryonic stem cell line derived from a primate is achieved (5).
  • Dickey-Wicker Amendment

    Dickey-Wicker Amendment
    The Dickey-Wicker Amendment passed by Congress bans all federal funding for embryonic research (2).
  • Dolly the Lamb

    Dolly the Lamb
    Dolly, the first cloned lamb, is created from stem cells (5).
  • World's First Embryonic Stem Cell Line

    World's First Embryonic Stem Cell Line
    Not only did John Gearhart produce embryonic stem cells from aborted fetuses (4), but also James Thomson, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin, successfully removed cells from embryos and grew them in the laboratory for the first time. By doing so he revealed their potential to restore and specialize into different cells (3). This spurred an intense ethical debate because Thomson created stem cells through a process that destroyed human embryos.
  • George W. Bush

    George W. Bush
    During George W. Bush's Presidency, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is still quite limited. President Bush encourages research in other kinds of pluripotent stem cells, rather than in embryonic stem cells (1).
  • Lies!

    Lies!
    Hwang Woo-Suk, a Korean researcher, claimed to have produced human embryonic stem cells from an unfertilized human egg. This was eventually proven to be completely false, but it did lead to a transnational scandal and did not help to decrease the mistrust in the scientific community (5).
  • Barak Obama

    Barak Obama
    President Obama issues an executive order that strikes down the restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research (7).
  • First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Clinical Trial

    First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Clinical Trial
    An experiment sponsored by the Geron Corporation of Menlo Park, California was the first human embryonic stem cell clinical trial to be conducted in the U.S. It was aimed at treating spinal cord injuries (7).