Stem Cells: What are They and How They Function
Stem cells are a great source of potentially developing new treatments in medicine.
You’ve seen or heard the term “stem cells”, or maybe you’ve thought about whether they could aid someone you love with a serious illness. You might be wondering about the meaning of stem cells, how they’re utilized to treat diseases or injuries, and the reason they’re a subject of intense debate.
Are Stem Cells a Thing?
Stem cells are your body’s primary material — the cells from which other cells with special functions are created. In the right environment within the body or a laboratory, stem cells multiply to make more cells known as daughter cells.
The daughter cells are either stem cells that are new or specialized cells (differentiation) that have a specific purpose, like blood cells or bone cells. There is no other cell in the body that can create new types of cells.
Why is There This Attraction to Stem Cell Research?
Researchers hope that stem cell research can aid in:
- Enhance understanding of how conditions develop. Through watching stem cells develop into bone-forming cells muscles, nerves, muscles of the heart, as well as other organs and tissues. Researchers can better understand how illnesses and conditions are created.
- Create healthy cells that can replace the damaged cells (regenerative medical treatment). Stem cells can be manipulated to become specific cells that are used by patients to heal and regenerate tissues that are damaged or impacted by disease. People who could benefit from the use of stem cells are those suffering from spinal cord injuries or type 1 diabetes amyotrophic-lateral disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease osteoarthritis, cancer, burns, and other injuries.
Stem cells could have the potential to be developed into new tissues to be used in transplants and the field of regenerative medical procedures. Researchers continue to develop an understanding of stem cells along with their potential applications in regenerative and transplant medicine.
- Check new medications to determine their safety and effectiveness. Before testing investigational drugs on humans, researchers may use certain types of stem cells to check the safety of the drug and its quality. This kind of test is likely to first directly impact the development of drugs to test for cardiac toxicity.
The new areas of research are the efficiency of human stem cells which have been programmed to become specific tissues to test the effectiveness of new drugs. For the testing of novel drugs to be reliable, the cells have to be programmed so that they acquire characteristics similar to the type of cells that are targeted to be affected by the medication. Methods of programming cells to become specific cells are under investigation.
For example, nerve cells can be created to test a new medication to treat a neurodegenerative disease. Tests can reveal whether the new drug had an effect on the cells and whether the cells were damaged.
What is The Source of Stem Cells?
There are many sources of stem cells.
- Stem cells from embryos. Stem cells come from embryos that are between 3 and 5 days old. At this point, an embryo is known as a blastocyst. It is composed of around 150 cells.
These stem cells are multipotent stem cells meaning that they can split into multiple stem cells, or transform into any kind of cell within the body. This ability makes it possible for embryonic stem cells to be used to repair damaged tissues and organs.
- Adult stem cells, these stem cells can be found in small amounts in the majority of adult tissues, like the bone marrow or fat. In contrast to embryonic stem cells adult stem cells have less capacity to make different cells in the body.
For a long time, scientists believed that adult stem cells would produce similar kinds of cells. For instance, researchers believed that stem cells in bone marrow might create blood cells.
There is evidence the stem cells of adult patients could be able to produce different kinds of cells. For instance, bone marrow stem cells could be able to produce the heart muscle or bone cells.
This research has led to the creation of early-stage clinical trials that test the effectiveness and safety of individuals. For instance, adult stem cells are being studied by patients with heart or neurological diseases.
- Adult cells are modified to acquire the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. Scientists have succeeded in transforming regular mature cells into stem cells through genetic reconfiguring. By altering the genes of these adult cells, scientists can reprogram cells to behave similarly to embryonic stem cells.
This innovative technique could permit the use of reprogrammed cells in place of embryonic stem cells. This could stop the immune system from rejecting the stem cells created. However, researchers don’t know if using altered adult cells could cause negative consequences in humans.
Researchers have managed to harvest normal connective tissue cells and reprogram them into functioning heart cells. In research, animals suffering from heart failure who were injected with heart cells from a new source experienced increased heart function and improved the time to live.
- The stem cells of the perinatal period. Researchers have found the amniotic fluid stem cell as well as the umbilical cord blood. These stem cells can develop into special cells.
Amniotic fluid encircles the sac which surrounds and protects a growing fetus inside the uterus. Researchers have discovered stem cells in the samples of amniotic fluid collected from pregnant women for test or treatment, which is known as amniocentesis.
Debate Concerning the Use of Embryonic Stem Cells
Stem cells from embryos are derived from embryos that are in the early stage which is a collection of cells formed when eggs are fertilized by the sperm of the clinic for in vitro fertilization. Since Human embryonic stem cells have been derived from human embryos concerns and issues have been raised regarding the ethical aspects of embryonic stem cell research.
The National Institute of Health made guidelines for human stem cell research in 2009. The guidelines describe embryonic stem cells and the ways they could be used in research. They also include guidelines for using embryonic stem cell donations. Additionally, the guidelines stipulate that the stem cells of embryos derived from embryos generated by in vitro fertilization are utilized only if the embryo no longer needs to be used.
Where Did These Embryos Come From
The embryos that are utilized in embryonic stem cell research stem of eggs fertilized during fertility clinics in vitro, but were not implanted into the uterus of women. These stem cells were given after obtaining the consent of donors. The stem cells can live and develop in specialized solutions in petri dishes used in labs.
Why Don’t Researchers Make Use of Stem Cells From Adults Instead?
Although research on adult stem cells has shown promise, adult stem cells may not be as flexible and resilient as embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells might not be able to create all types of cells which limits how stem cells from adults can be utilized for treating diseases.
Stem cells from adulthood are more likely to be affected by anomalies due to environmental dangers like toxins or errors made by the cells during replication. However, research has revealed that stem cells of adult age are more flexible than initially thought.
Why Should Researchers Make Use of Stem Cell Lines?
The stem cell line can be described as a set of cells that descend from one original stem cell and are developed in a lab. The stem cells in a line continue to grow but do not transform into specific cells. In the ideal scenario, they are unaffected by genetic flaws and continue to produce new stem cells. Cells can be isolated from a stem cell line, and frozen to store them and shared among researchers.
The Stem Cell Treatment (Regenerative Therapy in Medicine) and How is it Used?
The treatment of stem cells, commonly referred to as regenerative therapy, helps in the healing process of diseased, injured, damaged, or dysfunctional tissue by using stem cells or their derivatives. It’s the next chapter in organ transplantation that uses cells instead of organs for donation that are in short availability.
Researchers cultivate stem cells in a laboratory. The stem cells are then controlled to transform into specific kinds of cells, for example, heart muscles, blood cells, and nerve cells.
The cells that are specialized can be implanted into an individual. For instance, if a patient has heart disease, the cells can be injected directly into the heart muscles. The healthy heart muscle cells may aid in the repair of injured heart muscle.
Researchers have demonstrated that adult bone marrow cells that are guided by heart-like cells could restore heart tissue in humans The research is underway.
Have Stem Cells Been Utilized to Treat Disease?
Yes. Doctors have conducted stem cell transplants. They are also known as bone marrow transfers. When stem cell transplants are performed, stem cells replace damaged cells due to disease or chemotherapy. They also provide a means for the immune system of the donor to fight certain forms of cancer as well as blood-related disorders, including leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and multiple myeloma. The transplants are made using adult stem cells, or the umbilical cord blood.
Researchers are studying adult stem cells for the treatment of various conditions, such as many degenerative diseases like heart failure.
What Are The Issues That Could Arise in the Use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Human Beings?
For embryonic stem cells to be effective, scientists must ensure that the stem cells develop into the particular kinds of cells that are desired.
Researchers have found ways to guide stem cells to be specific types of cells, for example controlling embryonic stem cells so that they turn into heart cells. There is a lot of research being conducted in this field.
The embryonic stem cells may develop irregularly or specialize in different types of cells in a natural way. Researchers are researching ways to regulate the development and differentiation of embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells may trigger an immune reaction that causes the body of the recipient to attack stem cells, claiming them to be foreign intruders as well and the stem cells may be unable to perform the function intended, with no explanation for the consequences. Researchers continue to research ways to minimize the potential for problems.
What is Therapeutic Cloning and What Advantages Could it Provide?
Therapeutic cloning also referred to as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is a method to generate flexible stem cells, which are independent of fertilized eggs. This technique involves removing the nucleus from a fertilized egg. The nucleus is a repository for genetic material. This nucleus also gets removed from the donor’s cell.
The donor nucleus is in the egg to replace the nucleus removed in a procedure known as nuclear transfer. The egg can split and then form blastocysts. This results in stem cells that are genetically identical to the donor’s cells – it is, in essence, a replica.
Researchers think that the stem cells obtained from therapeutic cloning might provide advantages over fertilized eggs as cloned ones are more likely to get rejected when transferred back to the original donor. They also could enable researchers to observe the exact process by which a disease is developed.
Have People Been Cloned for Therapeutic Purposes?
No. Researchers haven’t yet been able to achieve human cloning for therapeutic purposes despite the success they have had in a variety of different species.
In recent studies, researchers have developed the human embryonic stem cell by altering the process of therapeutic cloning. Researchers continue to investigate the therapeutic potential of the process of cloning for people.