20/20 Stem Cell Predictions for the Year 2020

What would your predictions be for 7 years down the road and by the way please read the eye chart below out loud.

How’s your vision?

Today’s post is a chance to let one’s optimism and excitement about stem cells run a bit wild looking ahead not to next year, but 7 years ahead to the year 2020.


Can we make 20/20 (i.e. accurate) predictions for where the stem cell field will be that far down the road?

In my upcoming book (you can pre-order here at Amazon), Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide, I take a stab at some hopeful and sometimes geeky stem cell predictions as well, covering both positive and negative possibilities.

But in this particular blog post, I want to focus just on the positive. In a subsequent post, I will talk about remaining challenges & predicted problems even 7 years from now in the stem cell field.

I’ve give the stem cell crystal ball a try today with the positive predictions below.

I’m trying to be optimistic and hopeful without letting myself get too carried away with hype. Some of my predictions may not be fully realized in 7 years, but there may be great reasons for optimism by then about future successes in these areas. I also include some policy predictions.

  • Some forms of acute spinal cord injury, with intervention within a few weeks with a stem cell-based therapy, will show signs in clinical trials of being partially reversible.
  • Macular Degeneration will be routinely treated with stem cell-based therapies. The treatment will be safe and effective even if a bit expensive. The major cause of blindness will for the first time ever be able to be partially reversed. Will ES cell- or iPS cell-based therapies be further along in 7 years for treating blindness? I’m not sure. Today ES cell-based therapies are years ahead so they certainly have a head start. It’s possible that both ES and iPS cell therapies will have their roles for treating macular degeneration.
  • Clinical trials will suggest that arthritis can be partially treatable with stem cells that will have been proven to effectively and safely regenerate cartilage.
  • Stem cell-produced synthetic blood and blood products will be widely available. The military will start carrying “disposable” synthetic blood units into battle saving many lives of our men and women in the military.
  • A drug that kills cancer stem cells specifically enter clinic trials, raising hope of dropping recurrence rates dramatically for some cancers in a totally new way.
  • Diabetes will be partially controllable in some patients by stem cell-produced mini-pancreases in clinical trials.
  • A stem cell-based ALS treatment will show signs in clinical trials of efficacy and raising hope of significantly extending lifespan and quality of life for patients.
  • A stem cell-based Huntington’s Disease treatment will show signs of efficacy in clinical trials, for the first time providing real hope for these patients and their families.
  • Replacement of entire organs will not be realized, but this approach to medicine will seem more realistic in the years following 2020.
  • Several stem cell biotechs including Advanced Cell Technology (ACTC) and Osiris will be household names known to average Americans and other people around the world.
  • In 2020, a much greater percentage of stem cell scientists will routinely hold meetings with and work with patients to advance stem cell-based treatments. Stem cell scientists will also more routinely advocate (both actions and words!) for evidence-based medicine, for patient safety, and for the field.
  • Several major academic hospitals will offer formal physician training in cellular and stem cell-based regenerative medicine.

What are your predictions for stem cells 7 years from now? For example, do you think MS will be proven to be safely and effectively treated by stem cells? What about other diseases? What will be the top dog stem cell companies in 2020? Any other predictions?

Please post in the comments.

20 thoughts on “20/20 Stem Cell Predictions for the Year 2020”

  1. 1. I predict that the generic term ‘stem cell’ in the context cell therapy will become obsolete, as it should.

    The use of ES or iPS which are true stem cells as a therapy will take well more than 7 years.

    However, other therapies, especially therapies using MSC/ASC, with an MoA based on the secretion of proteins and not on their multipotent or unipotent differentiation capacity will become commonplace.

    Prochymal, the lead Osiris product, mentioned in the article, uses MSC based on a secretory mode of action to treat GvHD, crohn’s, ARS and more. In my opinion this is not a ‘stem cell’ therapy at all. Same goes for wound treating cell therapies, such as Dermagraft and Apligraft. Another example, this time using fully differentiated adult cells (ECs) is Vascugel (Shire).

    ‘Cell therapy’ is not necessarily ‘stem cell therapy’…This distinction is very important, for scientists, regulators and for the public.

    2. I perdict several MSC/adult cells with a MoA of protein secretion being marketed in 7 years to treat various indications and will be making a lot of money.

    3. I perdict that finally, big pharma will seriously jump in to join the cell therapy party.

    4. I perdict that the FDA will make substantial changes in the way cell therapy clinical trials are conducted and in how these therapies are regulated.

  2. Was wondering if you had any predictions on what the state of reverse engineering drugs for various diseases through stem cells will be like in 2020.

  3. I’d suggest that autologous MSC and growth factors will be widely used to enhance or replace surgical treatment of orthopedic injuries…

    Assuming, of course, that the FDA adopts a more flexible attitude towards the practice of medicine, otherwise MSC will simply be priced too high for this market.

  4. I think that CAR immunotherapy is going to be a big thing, and that stem cell research will be crucial in it’s development.

  5. I think that blastocyst complementation, exemplified by work in Professor Nakauchi’s lab combined with recent work on SCNT, exemplified by the work of Mitapilov will speed the generation of transplantable organs grown in humanized large mammals, most likely pigs. A greater understanding of the primordial stem cell state will allow us to overcome the need to actually disrupt the host blastocyst and ‘complement’ with single cells. Why use a 3D printer if you can grow it in an animal that uses molecular mechanisms we don’t fully understand to ensure the growth and function of the organ.

  6. Mohamed Ali Tawfeek

    I think we will find more fine similarities and differences between cancer cells and iPSCs, one research had done, which may enable us to use the programming of somatic cells into iPSCs as a new approach control cancer cells behavior control.
    Also, many clinical trials on organs transplantation which produced by iPSCs technique, the liver produced succefully about a month ago, may be acheived and this may open the door for new era of safe organs transplantation which is produced by iPSCs techniques.

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  8. I predict a large increase in the number of privately banked cord blood units by families after the pediatric neurological studies at Duke are concluded.

  9. hi, I found your blog through wired and follow the RSS feed since.The next 7 years basically are enough for a breakthrough to happen in your field, and a blind breakthrough ought to be expected.At least from my small experience on the convergence of specific fields and the scientific literature on the few fields I like to follow.How could the use of adult stem cells instead of embryonic ones stall or promote specific therapeutic options?
    Regarding M.S. we could expect maybe something with average or tolerable outcomes on demyelination but a therapy would take more time.We’ll might see the first parasitic – or cosmetic for those who prefer the term – plastic surgery and aesthetics uses of stem cells.Skin “rejuvenation”, wrinkle ” therapies”.Maybe something on hair transplantation or dentistry?Muscle enhancement?
    Isn’t a company about to promote a magical serum with extracts from stem cells cultures for male boldness?A certain bs, forgive my language, from a lady with an M.D.
    The posted PubMed link, reminded me a trilogy of articles on nanoneurosurgery.Once I tried to choose my specialty on the assumption where the best chances were for me to see the first uses of nanomedicine and ES uses in diagnosis and treatment.Cardiology and neurosurgery where the obvious ones.Unfortunately there’s always a miscalculation,an error , a deus ex machina(?) and we must make other options.
    What would you expect as a blind breakthrough in your field these 7 years?
    How could a major conflict or a minor nuclear weapons exchange in 2020 change research on stem cells use and regenerative medicine?

    1. Thanks for your predictions. 7 years seems like a long time, especially for a field like stem cells that moves so fast, but 7 years is a short period of time in the clinical therapy development arena.

      1. Agreed, but I think the really interesting thing about these predictions is that we’re really only able to base them on the assumption of linear/incremental advances in the field. While these will no doubt move fast on their own given the immense dynamism and increased investment in stem cells, what we cannot predict are the radical/non-linear advances that will emerge from blue-sky discoveries that we can’t even fathom right now. This tends to be the case in all high-tech fields. For example, if you had tried to predict in 1965 what computers would be like in 1975, you would have been a million miles off, simply because you wouldn’t have been able to conceptualize the miraculous development of the integrated circuit and microprocessor in 1969. This is the reason for my immense optimism.

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