Stem Cell Research What Are Stem Cells And Why Should We Continue Studying Them?

800 words - 3 pages

What are stem cells and why should we continue studying them? Stem cells are the source of life. They bridge the gap from the embryo we start out as and the architecture we become. Stem cell research has been ongoing for more then twenty years. The more we study them the more potential we find. But with every new scientific discovery there is always controversy and stem cells are no different. The controversy arises due to the source of stem cells. Some scientist believe that stem cells from human embryos have a greater potential to produce results then cells from adult donors or umbilical cord blood. But no matter where we get them the benefits far out way the controversies.Stem cells are blank cells that can develop into virtually any kind of cell in the human body. Most cells have a specific function such as liver cells, skin cells, brain cells and so forth, and once they have taken on this function, in a process called differentiation, they can't be adapted for any other function. Stem cells, however, have not gone through the differentiation process. By isolating stem cells in a laboratory, scientists theoretically could grow new heart cells to repair damage from heart attacks, new liver cells to treat hepatitis and new red blood cells for cancer patients. According to the lead researchers, stem cells could potentially be used for such things as growing nerve cells to repair spinal injuries, or even growing cells that make insulin, creating a treatment for diabetes. They also have the potential to make blood cells genetically altered to resist specific disease, such as HIV, to replace diseased blood cells.Stem cells have tremendous potential in regenerative medicine, which is the concept of repairing or regrowing damaged organs and tissue.Recently, scientists have been able to influence stem cells to differentiate into neurons, suggesting these cells may be suitable for transplantation in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. A man in his mid-50s had been diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 49. The disease grew progressively, leading to tremors and rigidity in the patient's right arm. Traditional drug therapy did not help. Stem cells were harvested from the patient's brain (adult stem cells) using a routine brain biopsy procedure. They were cultured and expanded to several million cells. About 20 percent of these matured into dopamine-secreting neurons. In March 1999, the cells were injected into the patient's brain. Three months after the procedure, the man's motor skills had improved by 37 percent and...

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