I’m going to go hugely nerdy for a sec and just say that scientifically and biologically this is super interesting and manages to prove false popular thought on how we can use stem cells in treatment. The common misconception is that stem cells from anywhere in the body should theoretically be able to become any cell type indiscriminately. The easiest way I find to typically think of stem cells are they are the progenitors, not yet been told the off or on switches to really become say a liver cell or a muscle cell, which are hugely different in what proteins they produce, their shape, their job, etc. They’re big blank slates that just need the right signals to become what the need to.
In this case, the stem cells were taken from the nose, and placed into an environment where, theoretically, instead of receiving the necessary signals to keep differentiating into a cell of the nose, it’d recieve new signals for it to differentiate into a neural cell (in this case it was a trial to see if doctor’s could cure her paralysis and have the stem cells grow to replace the patient’s damaged spinal cord)
Low and behold, 8 years later the woman complained of back pain and doctor’s found a benign growth of nasal tissue that contained within it cartilage and cells to secrete the mucus that we’d typically associate with our nose.
It’s hugely interesting because while theoretically those stem cells should have been able to adapt to the new environment and differentiate into a neural cell it was far enough along in its initial differentiation to a nose cell that it continued that way, and the new signals from the new area were unable to counteract it. It really solidfies how much of an absolute on/off switch stem cells deal with… once that switch for those cells was triggered, there wasn’t any way to go back and those cells were set to make a nose, and make a nose they did. Probably a big fault on the doctor’s part for not being able to isolate early stem cells, but also goes to show that even adult stem cells are probably far enough along that we might not be ever able to use them in this sort of treatment. One of the big reasons why saving the umbilical cord is becoming such a big thing, since it seems the truest stem cells which really have no bias come from infancy where the ‘freshest’ steam cells are.
It’s truly exciting though to see where this sort of treatment in the medical field will go~