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Leukemia And Stem Cells Essay

1198 words - 5 pages

Today, the topic of stem cells is a highly discussed, controversial one. It seems as though there is always something being said about new findings in stem cell research and what will be done with the newly-found information. One of the most conversed aspects of stem cell research is how stem cells can be used to treat potentially life-threatening conditions. Leukemia is one of the conditions being researched along with how stem cell therapy could help benefit the patients with it. In order to fully understand what is going on in the world of stem cell and leukemia research, one must first know what stem cells are and what leukemia is.
Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, and leukemia cells form in the bone marrow like other normal blood cells. The exact causes of leukemia are unknown, but there are some known risk factors that may lead to leukemia. These include being exposed to radiation, smoking, undergoing chemotherapy, having a genetic disorder, having a number of blood disorders, and a family history of leukemia. There are two different categories of leukemia: chronic and acute. Chronic leukemia gets worse slowly, whereas acute leukemia gets worse quickly. Depending on the type of leukemia, the symptoms may not even be apparent. In chronic leukemia, it is not uncommon for patients to be totally unaware of their disease until a routine check-up. However, symptoms may be experienced right away in patients with acute leukemia. Some symptoms of leukemia include fever, night sweats, headaches, change of appetite, unexpected weight loss, bruising easily, bleeding easily, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, recurrent infections, and pain in the bones or joints. Conversely, these symptoms may not even be due to leukemia at all. For an accurate diagnosis of leukemia, several tests must be done. Physical tests to check for swelling, blood tests such as complete blood counts, and biopsies of the bone marrow are a few examples. Though it is possible to live through leukemia, sometimes the treatments and transplants do not work and the patients die. The treatment of leukemia also depends on the type being attended to. Patients with acute leukemia need immediate treatment, usually maintenance therapy. Maintenance therapy destroys the signs of leukemia in the body. Patients with chronic leukemia may choose watchful waiting—an option that involves not getting treated right away, but instead waiting until the treatment is needed. Chronic leukemia is rarely cured with chemotherapy, but stem cell transplants offer hope in curing the disease.
Stem cells are cells whose roles in the body have yet to be determined. They have the potential to differentiate into specialized cells, and every type cell in the body forms from stem cells. This ability to differentiate into other cells is what characterizes stem cells. Before the stem cells begin the process of differentiating, they divide to make new, undetermined, stem cells. Stem cells differentiate by...

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