Stem Cells have the potential to make a large positive impact in the medical field. It is important to know the basics of Stem Cells, the difference between the types of Stem Cells, and the possible uses of Stem Cells. Knowing the basics of stem cells is a necessity to understanding how they might positively impact those with a medical condition.
Like any part of medical science, stem cells are very complex and consist of a lot of information. Stem cell research is still moderately new and has come a long way over the past 50 years. The idea of their existence was put forward in 1908 by Russian histologist named Alexander Maksimov. Maksimov named and hypothesized the presence of stem cells. It was not until 1963 that Canadian Scientists, James E. Till and Ernest A. McCulloch actually demonstrated the existence of self-renewing cells found in the bone marrow of mice.(Time.com) When it comes to who actually discovered stem cells; it seems there are no apparent disputes since many scientists through the years have contributed to the development of the research. To give the credit to a single individual for the discovery would be quite difficult. (Whodiscoveredit.com) None the less, this began the exploration into what might be the most positive impact the medical field will ever see.
In the first five days the inner cells of the organism will create the entire body, including all of cell types and organs such as the heart, lung, skin, sperm, eggs and other tissues. This is where stem cells come into play to form and take on specialized functions in the body. Stem Cells are defined as unspecialized cells that retain the ability to divide throughout life and take the place of specialized cells that get damaged, are lost, or that die. (Medterms.com). Millions of people are faced with many medical conditions such as birth defects and cancers every year. The number of new medical conditions continues to grow as well every year. A lot of that is due to abnormal cell division and differentiation.
The human body has over 200 different types of cells throughout it and a stem cell has the potential to replace just about all of them.(Time.com) They can initially duplicate or transform themselves into a different tissue type and function depending on what cells they are surrounded with such as nerve or skin cells. These cells are thought to divide indeterminately. Stem cells act as an "internal repair system" in tissue. They replenish other cells as long as the person is alive.
A Stem cell line is a culture of stem cells from one source that can keep growing in a laboratory for a theoretically unlimited period of time. Each new cell that is created after division has the potential to either remain a stem cell or transform into another type of cell with a specialized function. An example of this would be muscle, skin, or any other type of cell that has a particular function in the body. All stem cells have three general properties: they are unspecialized, they are capable of renewing and dividing into more for long periods, and they can give growth to specialized cell types. Stem cells also have the ability to repair many types of damaged tissue. There are two main types of stem cells scientists use for medical research. They are Adult and Embryonic Stem cells.
The first type of stem cells scientist's use is called the embryonic stem cells that are derived from an embryo. Most embryonic stem cells are taken from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro fertilization then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. (NIH.gov) They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. Most embryonic stem cells are derived from the mass of the inner cell of a five day old embryo that develops from an egg. Embryonic stem cells only exist in early embryonic development and will eventually form all the cells of the body. After about five days of development, these cells take on a function and will no longer exist. They can be grown fairly easily in a dish inside a lab by scientist.
In vitro fertilization has been the main method to obtain embryonic stem cells, but is intended for reproductive purposes. Removing the stem cells from the embryo usually destroys it. Different types of stem cells have the ability to repair many types of damaged human tissue, but only the embryonic stem cell has the ability to rejuvenate just about any type of tissue. Since they have the potential to form many different adult tissues they are also called pluripotent stem cells.
Adult stem cells are defined as an undifferentiated cell that is found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ that can renew itself and can differentiate to yield some or all of the major specialized cell types of the tissue or organ. (NIH.gov) All of adult stem cells are very limited in what they can do. Their primary role is to produce replacements for cells that are lost by wear and tear, injury, or disease in a living organism. Scientists have found that adult stem cells can repair only minor tissue damage. They can only reliably form blood cells. Adult stem cells are not derived from an embryo. Children and adults both have "adult stem cells".
The most common adult stem cell is the blood stem cell or also called non-embryonic stem cells. The cells are present in many tissues including bone marrow, adipose tissue, circulating blood and the spleen. Approximately one in one hundred thousand bone marrow cells are actually stem cell. They are normally used in the growth of new red and white blood cells. Red cells are used in the distribution of oxygen, waste, and food throughout the body. White blood cells are used for immunity from harmful particles and organisms such as viruses and bacteria. The two types of stem cells have their benefits and disadvantages, but together the possible of uses are much greater.
Stem cells are showing more and more possible uses as time goes on. They may be useful in the development, reaction and testing of drugs if someday researchers are able to create specialized tissue with the cells so they are not tried on humans initially. They also help scientists achieve a better understanding of how genetics work to prevent diseases. Stem cells have the ability to rapidly duplicate and with stem cell lines, the medical field could be supplied with an infinite number of stem cells to treat patients. In 1998, Dr. James Thomson and his team at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. (NIH.gov)
Currently in trials patients are being treated with stem cells that have Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy, macular degeneration, and spinal cord injuries. NIH.gov) Stem cells from the umbilical cord and Adult stem cells are also being used to treat sickle cell disease, lymphoma, and leukemia. Stem cells show promise to treat a number of other diseases and injuries such as strokes, baldness, cancer, heart disease, deafness, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and so much more. The list goes on and on for the possible treatments that stem cells can assist with. The use of stem cell line could be used to provide regenerative tissue therapy for possibly an unlimited number of people. Federal funding has limited the scientific and medical field's ability to obtain new cell lines at this time, but they are working towards changing that.
Stem cells have the potential to make a large positive impact in the medical field. The advances in research and the forward improvements in science, prove it's only a matter of time before stem cells are mostly used to treat a large number of medical conditions. They are able to rejuvenate tissue and transform into many different types of cells to correct diseases and act as an "internal repair system". Adult and embryonic stem cells are cells that scientists will continue to apply toward treating diseases, illnesses, and conditions. The high potential for future medical use is extremely promising and it is important to know the basics of Stem Cells, the difference between the types of Stem Cells, and the possible uses of Stem Cells.
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