Stem Cell Research Timeline

The information used to compile this Stem Cell Research Timeline comes from many different sources, including ScienceProgress.org and the National Institutes of Health.

Though there was some evidence of stem cells or ‘special cells’ able to produce other cells as early as the late 1800s, this timeline begins in 1961 with the first published study that accidentally identified cells that are able to renew indefinitely for a variety of uses.

February 1, 1961: Till & McCulloch establish the foundation for stem cell science.

  • Toronto scientists Drs. James Till, a biophysicist, and Ernest McCulloch, a haematologist, published accidental findings in “Radiation Research” that proved the existence of stem cells – cells that can self-renew repeatedly for various uses. Both worked for the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) at the time.

July 12, 1974:  Congress Bans All Federally Funded Fetal Tissue Research

  • The 93rd Congress implements a ban on nearly all federally funded fetal tissue research until the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research devises guidelines for it.

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The Stem Cell Research Controversy

Stem cell research has presented the nation with one of the most divisive ethical issues of the modern age. Aside from the biological implications of stem cell research, many question the morality of issues involving embryos, cloning, and genetic engineering, to identify a few.

While the debate is relatively new, it is rapidly becoming one of the most controversial ethical issues of today. As with most technological advances, the key question is not whether progress is right or wrong, but rather will society use the new power responsibly.

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Stem Cell Glossary

A glossary of terms used in the stem cell research field:

Adult (or Somatic) Stem Cell — An undifferentiated cell found in a differentiated tissue that can renew itself and differentiate (with certain limitations) to give rise to all the specialized cell types of the tissue from which it originated. It is important to note that scientists do not agree about whether or not adult stem cells may give rise to cell types other than those of the tissue from which they originate.

Astrocyte — a type of supporting (glial) cell found in the nervous system.

Blastocoel — The fluid-filled cavity inside the blastocyst of the developing embryo.

Blastocyst — A pre-implantation embryo of about 150 cells produced by cell division following fertilization. The blastocyst is a sphere made up of an outer layer of cells (the trophoblast), a fluid-filled cavity (the blastocoel), and a cluster of cells on the interior (the inner cell mass).

Bone Marrow Stromal Cells — A mixed population of stem cells found in bone marrow that does not give rise to blood cells but instead generates bone, cartilage, fat, and fibrous connective tissue.

Cell Division — Method by which a single cell divides to create two cells. There are two main types of cell division: mitosis and meiosis.

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