What Are Stem Cells? Essay

614 words - 3 pages

Stem cells are remarkable cells, they serve almost as an internal repair system. Stem cells can divide and replenish cells without any real limit, as long as the person or animal is still alive. Once a stem cell goes through its own cell cycle and divides it suddenly has the potential to become a new and more specialized cell, such as a brain cell, muscle cell, or red blood cell.

Stem cells are normally distinguished by two main characteristics. They are unspecialized cells that can make themselves into any specific cell needed in the body. Secondly. “under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. “In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues.” In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only ...view middle of the document...

So say if you had a patient with leukemia (cancer of the blood) then embryonic stem cells could help replenish the corrupted red blood cells. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent (Unhindered cell type development). Adult stem cells, or “somatic” cells are limited to becoming cell types relating to their tissue origin. Induced Pluripotent stem cells were discovered In 2006 when researchers made another breakthrough by identifying conditions that would allow some specialized adult cells to be reprogrammed directly to assume a stem cell-like state. These cells are forced to express genes and factors important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells.
“The only stem cell treatment explicitly approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. is bone marrow transplantation.” Which means any other stem cell study could possibly be illegal. However, that doesn’t stop most people from continuing to experiment with stem cells. Deafness is a major problem. “Deafness can occur if a person's inner-ear hair cells are destroyed by exposure to loud noise, to some antibiotic drugs, or simply through old age. The hair cells act like miniature microphones, capturing sound vibrations from fluid in the ear and translating the movement into nerve signals.” Even now there isn’t an official cure for deafness. But, in 2005 a team of scientists injected guinea pigs with antibiotics, which destroyed their inner-ear hair cells. They then injected a virus they had made that was engineered to be harmless but only smuggle in a gene. This gene called “Atoh1, also known as Math1, makes a signaling molecule known to orchestrate the development of hair cells in embryos.”
President Barack Obama lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research On March 9, 2009. Former U.S. President George W. Bush imposed the restrictions on cell research . Prior to President Obama's Executive Order, only the embryonic stem cell lines in existence before August 9, 2001 were eligible for federal research funding.

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