When prescribing a course of treatment for a disease, physicians face many complex challenges. In many of the diseases addressed by induced pluripotent stem cell research, a physician using the most up to date approaches will generally first attempt to slow the progression of the disease, and reduce the impact of the symptoms the patient experiences with pharmaceutical interventions, i.e., by prescribing drugs.
In doing this, physicians are - despite years of training and experience - faced with an uncertain outcome that may delay conclusive results significantly, by months or even years. Finding the best combination of drugs, and dosages of those drugs, with which to treat each patient is generally a lengthy process of trial and error - with symptoms taking as long as several months to be reflected in a patient's day-to-day condition.
Induced pluripotent stem cells show incredible promise for expediting this process of determining the best course of action to treat a disease. From a simple blood draw, a representative sample of any tissue in a patient's body can be generated - from the neurons of Alzheimer's patients, to the pancreatic beta cells of diabetes type 1 sufferers.
Once cultivated in vitro, or outside the body, these induced pluripotent stem cells can cheaply, quickly, and easily be used to test and select the most effective combination and dosage of drugs for each patient's unique body chemistry and physiology. The effects of each potential drug, at a wide variety of doses, can be rigorously observed and measured at a cellular level - without waiting weeks or even months for physical symptoms to manifest themselves in patients' outwardly observable condition. This can, if used properly, shorten the treatment process by months or even years, slowing or even halting the progression of a disease.