Stem Cells: The Hype and the Hope

Stem Cells: The Hype and the Hope

K3) Stem Cells: The Hype and the Hope

Moderator: Valeria Román
Organizer: Pete Farley


Hope is at an all-time high around the potential of stem cells to cure disease. The first clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem cells to treat macular degeneration is ongoing in Japan. Tremendous progress has been made in the field of regenerative medicine, in which damaged cells in the body are converted directly into healthy tissue. And recent research achieved cellular reprogramming through purely chemical means, opening the door to one day being able to regrow lost cells with a pill.

However, the technology has also been misused. Shoddy stem cell clinics in the US, China, India, Latin America, and Eastern Europe claim they can cure conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease to paralysis. At best, patients are given false hope and cheated out of their money; at worst, they experience medical problems far more severe than their original ailments.

Cardiologist and stem cell expert Deepak Srivastava can speak to the true potential of stem cells, debunking the hype surrounding the technology while highlighting progress made and the real reasons for hope.

Srivastava is a pioneer in stem cell research. He conducted some of the first studies on direct cellular reprogramming and successfully transformed scar tissue in the heart into healthy, beating heart muscle cells after a heart attack. He is the director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Gladstone. He is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center.