The term “stem cell” has become seemingly ubiquitous in modern scientific research. From the first successful bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia in 1956 to the birth of Dolly the sheep clone in 1996, stem cells have been the foundation of several groundbreaking headlines in recent times.1 However now, prominent research groups across the world are working on using stem cell therapies to treat a variety of medical issues that span the entire human body. What are stem cells, and why is the scientific community so excited about the prospects of stem cell therapies?
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It has been decades since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, and over a decade since the human genome was completely sequenced. In the ensuing years, technology to decode, understand, and change individual genes has grown in leaps and bounds. It is no longer a question of if we can change the very thing that makes us human, but should we. The question of should we rewrite the code of life is a complicated one, especially as it is not really one question but several, each stemming from a different type of possible modification. The most important difference is between somatic modification and germ line modification.