Scientists from the US biotechnology company Genzyme have published research that suggests that 'adult' stem cells may be more useful than was previously indicated. Scientists and pressure groups opposed to research on human embryos have asked on numerous occasions whether embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research is even necessary. There is some evidence that this may one day be the case but, until that day comes, it is generally believed that ES cell research is necessary in order to obtain knowledge and understanding about the properties of all stem cells and ways in which their growth may be directed.
Caroline Verfaille of the University of Minnesota, reported the discovery, in January 2002, of multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) - apparently capable of giving rise to all tissues in the body, just like ES cells. Also, in June 2002, a team of US researchers, again led by Catherine Verfaille showed that a type of adult stem cell derived from bone marrow (mesenchymal cells or MSCs) has many of the same characteristics as ES cells. MSCs also do not seem to trigger an immune reaction when transplanted.
Now, Genzyme has reported that MAPCs and MSCs may actually be the same type of cell, meaning that - with the properties of both types of cell added - they would have far more potential than was expected. New Scientist reported that if this is true, 'all of a sudden you have a non-controversial, highly versatile source of adult stem cells that can, in theory, be transplanted to anyone'.