In one area of stem cell research progress has been steady. Cord blood stem cells can be harvested from the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn baby and stored for future use should that baby (or a genetically similar relative) become sick. These stem cells have been used to treat close to 100 blood-based conditions, including several types of leukemia.
One particular challenge has been to force cord blood stem cells to become anything other than a blood cell. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in collaboration with scientists in Barcelona, Spain, have succeeded in coaxing stem cells to become neurons, a groundbreaking step in the treatment of traumatic brain injury and other neuronal disorders.