TABLE 1. Potential US Patient Populations for Stem Cell-Based Therapies

The conditions listed below occur in many forms and thus not every person with these diseases could potentially benefit from stem cell-based therapies. Nonetheless, the widespread incidence of these conditions suggests that stem cell research could help millions of Americans


Number of patients

Cardiovascular disease

58 million

Autoimmune diseases

30 million


16 million


10 million


8.2 million

Alzheimer’s disease

5.5 million

Parkinson’s disease

5.5 million

Burns (severe)

0.3 million

Spinal-cord injuries

0.25 million

Birth defects

0.15 million/year

Source: Derived from Perry (2000).

cells, whether derived from human embryos or adult tissues, are able to develop into specialized tissues, and seeks to harness this potential for tissue-replacement therapies that will restore lost function in damaged organs.

The list of diseases and injuries cited as potential targets of stem cell therapy reveals, in large measure, why stem cells offer so much hope for revolutionary advances in medicine (Table 1). Many of them—such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and spinal cord injury—have few or no treatment options, so millions of Americans are currently looking for cures.

The hope of using stem cells to produce regenerative therapies poses fundamental questions: Do human ESCs hold all the clinical promise attributed to them? Is realization of that promise imminent? Do stem cells from all sources have the same abilities? What is their potential for regenerative medicine?

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