|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 47-48
The stem cell promise: The future of stemocytology
Manu Kothari1, Atul Goel2
1 Department of Anatomy, K. E. M. Hospital and Seth G.S. Medical College, Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Neurosurgery, K. E. M. Hospital and Seth G.S. Medical College, Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||11-Mar-2014|
Department of Neurosurgery, Seth G.S. Medical College and K. E. M Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Kothari M, Goel A. The stem cell promise: The future of stemocytology. J Craniovert Jun Spine 2013;4:47-8
Hixson  biographing "one of the greatest scientific scandals" of the 20 th century, The Patchwork Mouse, perpetrated at the famed Sloan-Kettering Institute, observed in 1976: "The American public, known to (and devotedly imitated by) the world as the originator of fads and fetishes, suffers from time to time with the preoccupation over a single disease. Today, that disease is cancer." He then quotes an eminent virologist: "I have some advice for young researchers in biology. Stay out of cancer research, because it's full of money and just about out of science."
As an intellectual exercise, put stem cell promise as a current fad and stemocytology in place of cancer research and you will no way utter a blasphemy.
The summary failure , of Modern Medicine (MM) on all major fronts has allowed it to be very long on the promise of stemocytology, wherein the compelling cytorealities will forever force the stemocyto-optimists to stay short on any performance.
The very appellation stem is traceable to hemopoiesis and bone marrow transplantability. Normal hemopoiesis is the cell-child of pluripotential hemopoietic stem cell (HSC) from which all the cells of the circulatory blood are eventually derived.  The latest Thomson and Thomson Genetics in Medicine  is candid: "Only two types of stem cells are in clinical use at present: HSC, which can reconstitute the blood system after bone marrow transplantation and corneal stem cells, which are used to regenerate the corneal epithelium." The book's glossary  defines a stem cell as "a cell that is capable both of generating another stem cell (self-renewal) and of differentiating into specialized cells within a tissue in an entire organism." The juxtaposition of a stem cell's real scope, namely, to beget another stem cell and the promise of a stemocyte begetting altogether another specialized tissue pushes the text  to conclude cautiously: "The possibilities that other types of stem cells will be used clinically in the future is enormous. Although, it is easy to overstate the potential of such treatment, optimism about the long-term future is justified."
The medical air is thick with stemocytology: Neuraxial wounds will get repaired and many a deficiency redeemed. Infarcted myocardium will be regenerated. Diabetes cured. Defensive notes, however, from the icons of science journalese, are long and scary: The Scientific American (July 2006) has a cover story posing a question: "do stem cells cause cancer?" and then goes on to epigraph the big article: "A dark side of stem cells - their potential to turn malignant - is at the root of a handful of cancers and may be the cause of many more". WiCell - the journal of stem cell discovery (Spring 2007) gives a flashy account of this fledgling science to claim, on the cover, the plans of marching "from the laboratory to the marketplace." Stemocytes may fail to provide cure, but seem sure to provide financial windfalls.
From the hype and hoopla, let us come down to some banal cytorealities. A cell is still a 4-lettered mystery that refuses to be caged in a definition. Its so-called differentiation is more easily stated than understood.  The zygote - the primostemocyte - is a featureless cell that begets an eel or an Einstein by processes in the realm of the unknown and the unknowable.  Trying to understand or define a Hunchback of Notre Dame de Paris amongst cells - namely, the much maligned malignant cell - is like searching for the Holy Grail. Nobelist Szent-Gyorgi,  as chairman of a Ciba Symposium on cancer was asked, at the climax of the meet, if he could define a cancer cell: "How can I do so, when I do not know what is a normal cell." A cancer cell is, now, seen as a super differentiated normal cell. When MM has remained loftily ignorant about a (so-called) normal cell or a cancer cell, what to talk of a stem cell in the body or as a therapeutic transplant.
Modern cytology, it seems, is tottering on a precipice. It thrived on overworking on a cell's most visible/isolatable part, namely, the nucleus - nucleism - to realize, for many years now, that a cells genius basically lies in the nebulous cytoplasm, the nucleus only playing the second fiddle. This is gloriously realized  in the now commonplace phenomenon of cloning, successful with any goddamn diploid nucleus, provided its nesting place is the ovum's cytoplasm. The entire embryonic genius of the primostemocyte, called the zygote, resides in the cytoplasm and like the counterpoise of an elevator, only assisted by the nucleus.
A stemocyte - in the bone marrow or a corneal sheet - can beget another stem/daughter cell, but NOT a tissue. A HSC spawns off a discrete red/white/platelet cell into the circulation but no tissue.  A tissue is a cosmopolis comprising "coherent collections of specialized cells"  that is "bound together by collagen, with associated blood and lymph vessels, nerve and connective tissue cells."  The hemopoietic series is free from blood vessels as is an epithelial sheet of corneal cells. Asking a stemocyte to generate not just a clone of cells but a cosmopolitan tissue is trying to square a circle, in the utter absence of any knowledge about histiogenesis in utero and thereafter.
Stemocytology, capable of spawning a clone or a sheet of cells, may succeed in areas that need cells, without needing the complex of supporting tissue comprising collagen network, hemal and lymphocytic vessels, if not nerves. This can be epithelial cover, a sheet of corneal cells, a hemocytopoiteic focus, or a mass of cells, in say, the posterior hypophysis to secrete antidiuretic hormone.
We can conclude on the stemocytic promise vis-à-vis the neuraxis. , The nascent embryonic ependymal zone begets the indivisible postmitotic, perennial neurons on one hand and for each neurone, 10 mitotically capable glial cells on the other. The chances are that an implanted stemocyte - from whatever - will imitate in all probability the mitotically capable neuroglial cells, benign or malignant, proving Scientific American's fear and prophesy that stemocytes can beget a tumor.
A more important issue  is the reluctance of any wounded neural tissue to beget freshly made neural cells, the neuroproteins of which may well invite the thymic wrath to precipitate autoimmune encephalomyelitis. At this stage listening to Einstein seems pertinent: "If I have learned something from the speculations of a long life, then it is this that we are much longer distance away from a deep insight in the elementary processes of nature than most of the colleagues of our time believe."
The stem cell promise, neuraxially, seems too hollow to be a reality. MM, having gagged on a gnat is gearing up to gobble down a gorilla, quite reminiscent of President Nixon under "scientific pressure," floating the long defunct Conquest of Cancer Agency (14) (COCA) for an "all-out war against cancer," a fiercely funded and fought battle that went the Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan way. Sophistory of the kind at Biopolis (Singapore) is no solution to scientific befuddledness on some ordinary basic issues. Apples still fall down, no matter what, who and where.
At a Lister Symposium on wound healing, Glasgow, 1970, the Chairman summed up on a 4-fold note; nature has reached the zenith of perfection in the healing of a wound. MM knows nothing about it. MM in no way can accelerate it. MM often decelerates it. Next to embryologic epigenesis and organogenesis, the histopoiesis of the healing of a wound - from scratch to a car crash - is an unfathomably complex process. And this ought to be so, for MM is ailing  from basic binary blindness. MM knows not what cell is, nor what's really a fiber, the two comprising the 0 and 1 of the body. A stemocyte is, at best, a dividing cell implanted into a patient's body in blatant defiance of the body's laws  of self-versus non-self. Stemocytology is brilliant on paper, highly fundogenic and promisopoietic, but makes little scientific sense. Spiegelman,  1 of the 7 planners chosen to set up COCA compared this all-out quest of the conquest of cancer with "trying to land a man on moon without knowing Newton's laws of motion." Stemocytology is going the COCA way and must end up the same dismal way.
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