Stem cells are one of a kind cells. They are found in both humans and animals. These kind of cells are extremely useful as they are pluripotent, which means they can turn into virtually any kind of cell in the body. Stem cells were discovered around 50 years ago by a man named Leroy Stevens. He found a lab mouse with an enlarged scrotum. When he observed it, he found out that there was a tumor in its scrotum that contained multiple tissues, including hair and teeth tissues. He linked the roots of the tumor to a stem cell, thus unraveling their existence. The normal wear and tear of our skin cells would be fatal if it weren't for skin stem cells as skin requires constant regeneration. There are two types of stem cells- embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
All life begins as a single cell, called a zygote. The human zygote begins to divide rapidly, doubling its size every 12 hours. In 5 days or 150-200 cells, it is called a blastocyst. This blastocyst contains potential to develop into every organ in the human body. After this stage, the blastocyst travels to the uterus and the blastocyst is now called an embryo. The embryonic stem cells are derived from this embryo.
Benefits of Stem Cell Research
- Stem cells may lead to cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Diabetes, Schizophrenia, Cancer and Arthritis.
- Advanced use of stem cells may result in curing spinal cord injuries, serious burns and heart diseases.
- Stem cells provide a substitute for organ donors and transplants.
- Risks would be reduced, as the cells are the patients' own cells.
- Scientists could test drugs on the stem cells before injecting them into an animal.
- For experiments that require embryonic stem cells, an embryo is destroyed.
- Stem cells may not be the answer to all medical problems.
- According to research, stem cells can make coronary arteries narrower.
- Stem cells are pre specialized, blood stem cells make only blood and brain stem cells make only brain cells.
- Since embryonic stem cells are not a person's' own cells, the patient's body might reject them.
The procedure for stem cell therapy is through the bone marrow. The usage of bone marrow transplants to fight against leukemia is the most well known type of stem cell transplant.
Another procedure is to transplant multipotent adult stem cells from an umbilical cord, as reported by a group of Korean researchers on November 25, 2004.This procedure helped a patient suffering from a spinal cord injury to an extent to where she can now walk on her own.
Improvements in the well-being of our society
- Stem cells can be used for drug testing instead of a person or an animal, due to their multiplying capacity.
- Scientists use stem cells to study growth and development of humans and animals on a larger scale.
Some people believe that life begins from a zygote. Considering the fact that an embryo is developed much later after conception, any experiments done on an embryonic stem cell is as bad as abortion or murder. Stem cell research raised questions like
- Where does life begin?
- Is an embryo equivalent to a child?
- Is it justified to destroy an embryo, if it provides a cure for many?
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