- an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cell arise by differentiation.
Human life is one of the most mysterious processes in the universe. From the beginning of written history, mankind has made many efforts to prolong life by attempting to cure disease or slow the aging process.
In recent times, one of the most important steps that have been made toward the goal of a longer and healthier lifespan seems to be the research regarding stem cells. If you are not a scientist or a medical researcher, the information that is available on stem cells and their applications might seem confusing or even frightening.
Stem cell research can be explained simply by taking a look at the process.
What Are Stem Cells
Stem cells are actually found in every single organism that has more than a single cell. Stem cells are a sort of building block within the cellular structure of a living organism. These cells are different from a typical cell in two ways. First, a stem cell is able to divide continuously without the “stopping point” that other cells have within their design.
Most cells replicate a certain number of times or for a period of time and then can no longer renew themselves.
A stem cell does not have this inherent limitation. Even after a long period of dormancy, a stem cell can begin to renew itself. Second, a stem cell is capable of remaining a stem cell or becoming any other type of cell within the body. Under the right conditions, a stem cell can become a brain cell or a muscle or tissue cell.
There are very few limits to the capabilities of stem cells, making them unique in cellular structure.
Stem cells have been in the news since the early 1980s when scientists found that embryonic stem cells from mice could be harvested from mouse embryos. These cells could be induced to form tissues and even entire organs as the research progressed.
Two different types of stem cells were identified at that time. Embryonic stem cells and somatic or “adult” stem cells have been a mainstay of stem cell researchers for almost 30 years.
Human embryonic stem cells have been used since the late 1990s in reproductive areas like in vitro fertilization procedures. Later, these cells were studied for use in organ and tissue growth and replacement procedures. In the United States, all embryonic stem cells come from embryos donated for scientific research purposes.
In recent years, stem cell research and its potential has become a heated issue in both scientific and political circles. It is likely that this issue will remain controversial regardless of the impact that stem cells make on medicine and the longevity of mankind.
Stem cells are a tiny part of the human body that have become a polarizing issue in the world of science.
Guide To Stem Cells Video
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Basics Of Stem Cells Research
With all of the controversy surrounding stem cell research and its applications, it is surprising how little is known about the actual treatments that may be provided with stem cells. The use of stem cells in the treatment of human disease has become a major topic in the scientific research and medical community.
What the stem cells may accomplish and how they will benefit mankind are questions that many scientists are seeking answers for right now.
Stem cells have many possible applications in the future. Scientists believe that once the secrets of these cells have been unlocked, they may be the key to extending life and healing the body. In cardiovascular health news, stem cells have become a hot topic.
Research accomplished using patients who are having open heart surgery has shown that the cells may possible help to regenerate cardiac tissue.
Previously, damage done to the heart has been considered to be completely irreversible. Cardiac disease is one of the leading causes of death, especially in the United States. Doctors using stem cells during cardiac surgery are studying the effects of these cells on the creation of new pathways for the circulatory system.
It is believed that stem cells may aid in the production of new blood vessels and the healing of damaged heart muscle.
For people suffering from diabetes, stem cells are the hope of the future. In many cases, diabetic patients have a pancreas that no longer functions correctly. It is believed that stem cells might be used to create new cells within the pancreas.
These cells would function normally and possibly reverse the disease. They might also help increase the flow of blood to limbs that are affected with peripheral vascular disease, a common symptom of diabetes and heart disease.
For research, stem cells may replace human tissues in the testing phase of new medications and new tumor therapies. It is thought that tumors created from stem cells could be used to test drug therapies in cancer treatments. This would allow for a much more rapid testing process.
Finally, stem cells could possibly be used to generate new organs. In an age when organ replacement is a preferred therapy for many diseases, stem cells could be the perfect solution for a lack of donor organs. If the cells can be induced to form new organs, there will be no need for long waiting lists for organ replacements. Liver and lung transplants could be tailored to suit each patient without waiting for a perfect donor match. Stem cells might even allow the replacement of body parts lost due to accident or injury. The future of stem cell research is unclear but the applications might possibly be endless.
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About Stem Cells Research
Although the issue of stem cell research is a controversial one, the results of stem cell therapies cannot be denied. Used in the treatment of many diseases in animals, stem cells have become the hopeful future of medical research.
Since the 1980s, the viability of stem cells in medicine has been a major issue in the scientific community. Successful treatments in dogs, cats, horses and other animals have offered hope to many doctors and patients for a wide range of medical options.
Stem cells have been integrated into arthritis therapies using dogs and have shown a significant reduction in pain and degeneration in diseases like hip dysplasia. Many doctors believe that these treatments will be equally effective in humans.
Heart disease, cancerous tumors and diabetes cripple or kill many people each year. Stem cell therapies accomplished on animals have shown amazing results when it comes to the treatment of these diseases.
Studies from major universities, including Johns Hopkins, have come to the conclusion that stem cells taken from the bone marrow of pigs can actually restore normal heart function in animals with cardiovascular disease.
Research on human test subjects, mainly through clinical trials, have been equally effective. This could mean a better quality of life for the over 8 million heart attack sufferers in the United States alone.
Stem cells are used in the treatment of diabetes in animals and have moved toward human use, as well. Diabetes causes damage to many systems in the human body and stem cells from cord blood have been recently shown to reverse even type 1 diabetes.
These cells are taken from the umbilical cord of newborn babies and are believed to be a sort of “constructor” cell. The cells, under the right conditions, can become any other type of cell within the body. This means that they can replace damaged cells and increase insulin production in patients where almost no insulin production capabilities were present.
In the treatment of cancer and even bone or ligament injuries, stem cells have shown huge potential. Leukemia, the result of abnormal leukocyte production and function, has shown significant improvement in test studies where stem cells were used to replace abnormally functioning leukocytes.
Where cancerous tumors have been treated with stem cell therapy, a reduction in tumor size and restored cell function has been shown. Even damaged knees and hips can be treated with stem cells. Injections of a patient’s own cells into a damaged area can speed healing and restore damaged ligaments and tendons.
Although the future of stem cell research is not clear, the benefits seem to be irrefutable. With approval from the government, there could be some amazing medical treatments available for people all over the world.
Attitudes Towards Stem Cells Research
There are few subjects that offer a more heated discussion among politicians, religious leaders and the public than stem cells. These tiny cells have created a storm of fury, confusion and misunderstanding among both the professional community and the general public. Rather than simply deny the existence of stem cell therapies and research, it might be best to openly discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this controversial subject.
In general, the dissension that is heard when embryonic stem cells are mentioned comes from a religious or moral viewpoint. Because certain types of stem cells are harvested from donated embryos or aborted embryos, many people find this to be distasteful or morally wrong. The whole issue of abortion or the donation of a fetus is an issue that polarizes people.
On one side there are humans with strong views regarding exactly when life begins. Some people believe that a person becomes a person when they are conceived. Another side of this argument includes people who believe that a human is only a human after the second trimester of pregnancy.
Still another viewpoint states that human life begins at birth. With all of these sides to take into account, it is no wonder that politicians and governments are hesitant to approve stem cell research.
On top of the issue regarding when life begins, the rights of an unborn child are also put into question. Many people believe that it is morally unacceptable to donate an aborted or miscarried fetus to medical research. Whether or not the remains of an unborn child should be given a funeral also comes into question. The religious questions that are raised during the discussion of stem cell research are some of the most difficult to answer.
Many people are not concerned with stem cell treatments if the cells are harvested from adults only. This seems to be the perfect answer to the controversy, but it actually generates even more arguments. Many people feel that this type of therapy is “playing God” or taking life out of “God’s hands” and placing it in the hands of doctors.
Still others argue that the therapy could prolong life but would only benefit the very wealthy. Or that stem cell therapy could cause greed among certain doctors and lead to stem cells collected from the poor and given only to the rich.
Although the controversial side of stem cell therapy may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, it is a fact that the stem cells exist. It is also a fact that the research will continue, regardless of morality, in some corner of the world.
Stem cells might be hope for the future or they may become an issue so emotional that they are banned completely in medicine.
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The Future Of Stem Cells Use
No issue in the medical community polarizes more people than stem cell research. Although the benefits of stem cell therapy are clear, the controversy remains. Whether it is a religious or moral objection, there is always a dissenting side when it comes to this subject.
Many people believe that stem cell research is going to change our very existence. Some people find this comforting and some find this terrifying.
Scientists believe that stem cells may be the key to erasing the biological clock completely. With past research data and future implications, there seems to be no end to the good that can be done with stem cells. From reversing the effects of cardiovascular disease and replacing damaged heart tissue to turning off the damaged cells in cancer, stem cells are showing amazing results in almost every aspect of modern medicine.
It is believed that the future of mankind will be healthier, stronger and longer with this research.
Increased research in the areas of cancer and other progressive diseases has shown that stem cell therapies can benefit even those patients who were deemed hopeless in the past. Stem cells injected into cancerous tumors have been shown to reduce the size and progression of these tumors immensely. Some studies showed an 80% reduction in tumor size with stem cell therapy.
For a cancer patient, this news could mean the difference between life and death. Research conducted within the United States, mostly on animals, has shown that stem cell therapies can reverse the crippling effects of arthritis and bone degeneration in the elderly. Smaller studies using human volunteers have shown that the data translates to people, as well.
Research that goes unfunded and unregulated by the government might not benefit all of the public. This issue has become one of the most controversial topics in the stem cell debate. The hope that stem cell therapies will benefit all of mankind cannot be realized without the intervention of the government.
Many researchers believe that regardless of the laws, stem cell therapy and its research will continue but in order to make it useful for all, regulation and government assistance is necessary. The future of stem cells research and therapy rests in the hands of the people.
If a long and healthy life is what most people wish for themselves and for their families, stem cells therapy is working to give them this future. Looking ahead to a world where diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease are no longer prevalent, stem cell therapy gives hope to humanity.
Because the future of this therapy is uncertain, the implications are unknown. There is only the belief that within the community that morality and science will someday work together for a brighter world.
Research on stem cells continues to advance knowledge about how an organism develops from a single cell and how healthy cells replace damaged cells in adult organisms. Stem cell research is one of the most fascinating areas of contemporary biology, but, as with many expanding fields of scientific inquiry, research on stem cells raises scientific questions as rapidly as it generates new discoveries.