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Stem Cells Research
Stem Cells – Introduction
Stem cells are unspecialized cells found in multi-cellular organisms with an ability to proliferate into any one of the body’s more than 200 cell types. In a simpler language, these cells can be transformed into other cell type, found in the body on being given the right stimuli. Thus, they can be recreated to form liver, skin, red blood cells etc. The ability of the stem cells to transform varies, as some are more adaptable to transformation than others.
These are characteristically of the same type. Scientists have developed a special technology through which they can mould these cells to become the precisely the same cell that is required.
These cells can grow into anyone of the body’s more than 200 cell types. These cells retain the ability to divide throughout their life. The advancement in research has helped create interest in exploring the possibilities of fully functional differentiated cells such as cardiomyocytes, neurons and bone and cartilage. Primarily, these stems cells are divided into
Embryonic stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells– Both are different sources of deriving human embryonic stem cells. These are pluripotent cells which mean that they can divide into any of the three germ layers such as endoderm (inner stomach lining, lung and gastrointestinal tract), mesoderm (urogenitals, muscle, bone and blood), ectoderm (epidermal tissue and nervous system). These cells are more adaptable and can give rise to any fetal or fully grown cell type.
Developed stem cells– these are multipotent cells which can give rise to only limited type of cells. These are again differentiated into
Neuronal stem cells
Haematopoietic stem cells
Skin stem cells
Each of these can give rise to only specific cell types such as neuronal stem cells. These neuronal stem cells can give rise to only nerve cells and not blood cells or liver cells. Thus, their function is limited
The scientific human embryonic cells (hES) have triggered many debates in the recent times. The impacts of these debates have been so deep that it has affected the progress of the researches and clinical trials that this therapy is undergoing. Despite all this, scientists are committed and further research is on. The scientists are attempting different ways of isolating these cells in improved cultural conditions, such that its does not provoke ethical and political conflicts.
Collection issues While extracting the cell it is important to ensure that the cells are free from microbiological contamination, can be identified easily and they are away from circumstances that can change their genotype (internal coding or blue print) and phenotype (physical appearance of the organism).
The contaminations in the cell culture can be identified through changes that can be identified with the naked eye (visible) and changes that cannot be seen with naked eyes (invisible).
The visible changes include
pH alteration– A change in the pH can result in change in color of the medium.
Fungal infection– This can occur as a change in the turbidity or colonies of fungal organisms.
The above changes cannot be reversed due to which the culture cannot be used and has to be discarded.
Invisible changes mean that the mixture is contaminated, mostly due to mycoplasma. (Mycoplasmas are a genus of bacteria that lack a cell wall and are mostly resistant to beta-lactum antibiotics). These contaminations can spread rapidly to other cultures and are hard to eradicate. This form of contamination can cause.
Chromosomal abnormalities-This is a condition in which there are abnormal number of chromosomes such as an extra copies or missing copies of a specific chromosomes or presence of chromosomes with missing or extra pieces.
Cell transformation– change of structure of the cell- modification of genome.
To avoid this form of contamination, it’s mandatory to perform routine screening of all the organisms in cell cultures.
Properties of Stem Cells
Today, with advent of technologies, transplant of live, heart, kidney etc. has helped save millions to lives. But with time, the demand of the organs has surpassed that of the supply. Stem cells offer a solution where the patient can have organ transplant that are derived from the stem cells. As these organs are usually from the donors own body (fully grown stem cell) or from people who are genetically related, the chances of organ rejection are minimal.
This is possible because stem cells have distinct properties that make them more suitable for various therapies and organ regeneration. Stem cells can be derived from three sources
Umbilical cord blood cells– As the name suggests, this is derived from the umbilical cord of the fetus, immediately after birth. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). These stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can have self-renewal and differentiation into all blood types. Among all the other stem cells, these have practical and ethical advantage.
Human embryonic stem cells (hES)– These are derived from embryos, taken from surplus embryos that are left in after an IVF after the donors consent. These stem cells, on stimulation can produce organs, but the patient has a rare chance of facing organ rejection. Latest research also suggests that they can be found in the embryonic fluid.
Fully grown stem cells– These are pre-specialized cells, usually from the donors own body or from relatives and has high success rates as the chances of the body’s immune system rejecting it are less. But they are not as versatile as umbilical cord blood cells or hES.
Embryonic cells and umbilical cord stem cells are well suited for therapy because
Proliferation– Stem cells have the property of dividing and renewing themselves. The rest of the body cells such as muscle cells or nerve cells do not normally replicate themselves, but stem cells can proliferate. In case of embryonic stem cells, they are obtained from blastocysts in the developmental stage. The stem cells are derived from the umbilical cord blood. Both are pluripotent and due to this they possess the flexibility to become anyone of the more than 200 cell types that are found in the human body.
Unspecialized cells that can produce specialized cells– Being unspecialized makes the stem cells unique. Unlike the other body cells which serve specific functions, these cells do not have any tissue specific structures. They remain inactive until they receive the necessary stimuli. This process is termed as differentiation. Post differentiation they can proliferate and produce specialized cells such as muscle cells, blood cells and nerve cells. It allows them to have identical, well-defined genomically and phenotypically characterized stem cell.
These forms of embryos have high plasticity and can be stimulated to form just about any organ.
Fully grown stem cells are multipotent , i.e they generate only the cell types of the tissue in which they reside. E.g. blood forming (hematopoietic) fully grown stem cell in the bone marrow gives rise to different types of blood cells. But these cells cannot give rise to nerve cells in the brain. Hence they are also called specialized stem cells.
The three main areas of stem cell production are-
Brain——->neural stem cells—–>Nerve cells
Bone marrow—–>haematopoietic cells—–>blood cells, liver cells and muscle cells
Skin—–>skin stem cells—–> Skin and nerve cells
Organ transplant through fully grown stem cells from the donors himself has high success rate as body accepts the organ, completely nullifying the effects of organ rejection. But it also has a drawback as stem cell numbers are few and rare in matured tissues and available in limited numbers in cell culture. This is poses a problem when the patient has to undergo stem cell replacement therapies.
Similarities and DifferencesSimilarities
Both the types of stem cells are unspecialized and show vast potential in terms of curing diseases and organ transplant.
The umbilical cord stem cells and the developed stem cells, if used from the same individual have negligible chances of getting rejected by the immune system and may show better improvement.
They can be extracted without any side effect, stored and cultured when required.
DifferencesDeveloped Stem Cells
Multipotent- these stem cells can give rise only to a limited number of cell types
Culture- These are less in number, (rare in matured cells) and isolating them is challenging. Increasing their number in cell culture is not easy and the scientists are still attempting to do this successfully.
Organ rejection- These stem cells are less likely to face immune rejection as the patients own cells are extracted and cultured.
Embryonic stem cells
Pluripotent- These cells have the capacity to develop into more than 200 cell types in the human body.
Culture- These are easier to culture and their number can be increased easily in culture. Large number of stem cells is required for stem replacement therapies.
Organ rejection- the chances of organ rejection are more here as the stem cells are taken from donor embryos. Though research is on, and this fact is yet to be established.
Collection and Storage of Stem Cells
These stem cells are extracted from the umbilical chord of a new born, without posing a threat to the mother or the new born.
These are characteristically of the same type. Scientists have developed a special technology through which they can mould these cells to become the precisely the same cell that is required. These cells can grow into anyone of the body’s more than 200 cell types. These cells retain the ability to divide throughout their life. The advancement in research has helped create interest in exploring the possibilities of fully functional differentiated cells such as cardiomyocytes, neurons and bone and cartilage. Primarily, these stems cells are divided into
Collection procedure-Umbilical chord stem cells
Immediately after the release of the fetus from the womb, two sides of the umbilical cord are clamped. With the help of a needle, cord blood is extracted. Cord blood is rich in stem cells. This along with a sample of the mother’s blood cells is preserved in a bag. It is protected from coagulated and contamination from micro-organisms.
In the cord blood cell bank, it is checked for infection such as AIDS, hepatitis and malaria and cryopreserved using liquid nitrogen for future use.
Human embryonic stem cells
They can also be extracted from aborted embryos and blastocysts developed from surplus embryos in the IVF lab.
Fully grown stem cells
n adults, stem cells are extracted from the brain, bone marrow and skin. The extraction process is similar to that of the extracting blood. The average amount of blood extracted from the individual is around 500ml of blood which is sufficient for resting, processing, cryopreservation and storage.
Markers to differentiate stem cells
Though there are a wide variety of stem cells which have the property of self-renewal, indefinite growth and differentiation, but the populations of these are limited in the human body. Among 100,000 circulation blood cells, only 1 is a stem cell. To identify this one cell, scientists use stem cell “markers”.
What are stem cell “markers?”
The outer covering or coating of every cell in the body is made of specialized protein called as receptors. These receptors are capable of binding or getting attached to other signaling molecules. Each cell type has a certain pattern of receptors which are unique to them, e.g. liver cells have their own combination of receptors through which they communicate among themselves and carry out their functions. These receptors act as the stem cell marker. This biological and chemical uniqueness helps to mark the stem cell receptors.
Doctors use the combination of the chemical properties of fluorescence and unique receptor patterns on cell surfaces to identify stem cells. This is used in the following two approaches
FACS- During this process a suspension of marked cells is sent under pressure through a nozzle, which allows only one cell to pass at a time. When these cells exit the nozzle, they pass through a light source and then an electric field. These fluorescent cells become negatively charged and the non fluorescent cells become positively charged. The different charges allow the stem cells to be separated from other cells
In this method, scientists use stem cell markers and their fluorescent tags to visually check cells as they exist in tissues. The procedure involves preparing a thin slice of tissue. In this the signaling tissue (this is attached with a fluorescent tag) tags the stem cell markers. Post this the fluorescent tags are activated either by special light energy or by a chemical reaction. When observed under a microscope, these stem cells emit a fluorescent light.
Immediately after the extraction, the stem cells are store using cryopreservation. Cryopreservation is the process through which these cells are preserved by freezing them slowly to sub-zero temperatures (ideally it is 77 K or -196˚C) in liquid nitrogen. The temperature does not allow any biological activity to take place. The cells are also protected with cryoprotectant solutions. These solutions are used to preserve the cells against the damaging effects of freezing.
When required, the cryopreserved blood is defrosted, devoid of chemicals and injected through the vein of the patient.
Treatments of Diseases with the help of Stem Cells
Stem cells are a breakthrough in the medical field where they have shown some promising results, even in the most challenging cases like Parkinson’s. So far, they have shown good progress in various nervous, cardiovascular and orthopedic diseases.
1. Treatment of diabetes-– For years, diabetes has been a slow killer to many Americans. From the young to the old, many have fallen prey to this disease. Scientists have tried to find a permanent cure to this disease.
Type I diabetes– also known as juvenile-onset diabetes is observed mainly in children and young adults. This is also a form of auto immune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own cells as they appear as foreign bodies. This destroys islets of pancreas which is the site of production of insulin. Once the insulin production ceases, the glucose is unable to enter the cell and continues to circulate in the blood putting the body in a hyperglycemic state.
Type II diabetes– This occurs in later stage of life and mostly affects those who are above 40 years, overweight or have a sedentary life. In most cases, it is hereditary and affects those who have a family history of diabetes. In this case, glucose cells develop a resistance to insulin, though the insulin production in normal. This leads to build up of glucose in the blood.
So far, there is no cure for this disease, though it can be controlled by administering insulin several times a day. This is continued for life and requires frequent monitoring and life long follow up, so as to keep the glucose level in check. If not controlled, it can lead to heart diseases, retinopathy (a complication that can cause blindness) and organ failures.
Stem cell cultivation
To develop a therapy for diabetes, stem cells should be able to multiply in culture and self-renew. But researchers are still debating on whether there should produce only beta cells (the islets cells that produce insulin) or other types of pancreatic islet cells which play a key role in manufacturing insulin.
Developed Stem Cells
The latest study has proved that producing only beta cells does produce responsive changes in glucose, but the response is unable to adjust to the level of glucose present in the blood. Under normal circumstance, the response of the insulin to an abnormally high level of glucose is in two phases, first by quickly releasing high concentration of insulin and then by releasing decreased concentration of insulin, slowly. But the isolated beta cells and islet clusters either release insulin or do not release them at all.
Bearing the above observation in mind, researchers are trying to develop a type of system in which the stem cells can be cultured to produce the islet cluster that can adjust the release of insulin, according to the requirement.
Embryonic stem sells
The human embryonic stem cells can be cultivated under controlled condition. Upon stimulation, they can develop into islet cells of the pancreas. This is still getting researched on and scientists believe that this could be the answer to a permanent cure for diabetes. These cells can be cultivated and used by patients who require a transplant. They also have the possibility of curing type I diabetes as they can be engineered to avoid getting rejected by the body’s very own immune system.
A US- Brazilian project conducted using 23 patients proved that those who underwent a transplant of stem cells could produce their own insulin. These were the stem cells extracted from their won bon marrow.
2. Treatment of Alzheimer’s– The exact cause of this disease is yet not known though scientist believe that it could be due to genetic make up, lifestyle and environmental factors. As of now, it is among the most severe afflictions because it slowly strips patients of their memory, slowly pushing them toward dementia. As of now, this disease has no known cure, except for a few drugs that suppress the symptoms.
Stem cell therapy – Preclinical studies done on rats have shown that a compound related to DNA helped get better results in stem cell treatment of Alzheimer’s. The team discovered that if the bone marrow cells were treated with this compound, fully developed stem cells had more chances to turn into brain cells in rats. This study also helped to overcome the ethical concerns regarding the use of embryonic stem cells as it uses the stem cells derived from the patients own stem cells. There were also no chances of immunological rejections.
3. Treatment of blindness– A compound called as bromodeoxyuridine has helped stimulate stem cells to turn into retinal cells. This discovery has given a ray of hope to patients who are suffering retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This disease is characterized by cutting out the eyes ability to pick up light leading to a condition that is termed as ‘tunnel vision’ where the peripheral vision is blocked. This disease is an irreversible and degenerative. In future, researchers plan to extract stem cells from the umbilical cord blood and inject them into retinal cells.
4. Treatment of muscular dystrophy– This disease is caused due to genetic defects and is characterized by increasing muscle weakness over time. This is also among those diseases that cannot be cured. Researchers have discovered that a particular type of stem cells called mesoangioblasts can reach the muscle tissue after crossing the blood stream. This can be done post collection of blood from patients and stimulated under controlled conditions. Once these start multiplying through ‘self renewing’ they can be injected back into the patient’s blood. These stimulated stem cells then reach the patients blood stream.
Treatment of leukemia– One of the most useful stem cell therapies has been the bone marrow transplant that has helped cure leukemia as well as other types of cancers. Leukemia causes the leukocytes (white blood cells) to grow and function abnormally. Once they become cancerous, their functions get impaired where they cannot fight off infections and may even lead to organ failure.Stem cell treatmentIn this form of a treatment, patient’s bone marrow stem cells are transplanted with those of a healthy, matching donor. This is initiated by killing the patient’s abnormal leukocytes through chemotherapy and radiation. This is followed by injecting some healthy stem cells in the patient’s blood stream. In a successful transplant, the healthy leukocytes replace the abnormal cells.
6. Treatment for prostrate cancer– This is a form of cancer that grows in the prostrate. In UK alone, it had claimed more than 10,000 lives. Researchers have successfully isolated the stem cells that cause prostate cancer. Theories suggest that even cancer cells have stem cells that help in the growth and progression of this disease. Researchers are trying to target and kill the stem cells which increase the chances of survival, respond better to chemotherapy and may even help cure the disease. But the efficacy of this form of treatment is yet to be discovered.
7. Treatment of hair loss– Alopecia has taken form of an epidemic, with trichologists all over the world are trying to come up with a permanent solution to this disorder. Injecting live stem cells that have been stimulated under lab conditions to replace dead cells is still being researched on. Moreover, the new hair resembles that of the owner and starts growing normally. If proven effective, this can help to curb hair loss and reverse baldness forever.
8. Treatment for hearing loss– The inner part of the ear is responsible for detecting sounds. It also contains tiny hair cells that deform on hearing loud sounds. Unlike the hair cells on the other part of the body, these hair cells do not grow back once they die. This can happen due to noise damage, toxic compounds or aging and usually the only solution is hearing aids. Researchers are working on the possibility of stem cell therapy which can regenerate these dead hair cells. There are also possibilities of discovering molecules that enable hearing.
9. Treatment for spinal cord injury– This form of injury can result in complete loss of sensation below the area of injury. Millions of people across the glob get confined to the wheel chair due to an injury of the spinal chord.Stem cell therapy– group of scientists conducted preclinical studies on rats to study the effect of stem cells in case of spinal injury. Researchers added neurogenin-2 to stem cells while they were undergoing self renewal in culture. These stem cells were then transplanted into the spinal cord. The result was encouraging with no adverse pain and enhanced motor function. Besides, the sensory functions (sensation below the injured area) also clearly improved.
10. Treatment of cerebral palsy– This is a disorder that is caused due to brain damage which took place during pregnancy, labor or after birth. The symptoms include seizure, hearing loss, difficulty in speaking, blindness, lack of coordination and in severe cases may also cause mental retardation.
Umbilical Cord-Derived Stem Cell Therapy– – in this disease, the brain cells get injured and are killed due to insufficient nutrients and oxygen. Using this therapy; the neural stem cell growth can replace dead and injured neurons.
11. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation– This procedure involves administering the original stem cells that are capable of restarting the normal bone function in the patient. This procedure is useful in curing leukemia and to correct congenital immunodeficiency disorder. This has also helped patients endure higher doses of chemotherapy as the tolerance level of bone marrow increases. This allows normal functioning of bone marrow and the marrow can be replaced with harvested stem cells. Besides treating leukemia, this therapy can also treat aplastic anemia, lymphomas such as Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, immune deficiency disorders and some tumors such as breast and ovarian cancer.
This can be done via two means, by using the stem cells from a donor source. In this form of transplant, it is important to match the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) between the donor and the recipients. Compatibility between the match decreases the chances of graft rejection and graft versus host disease (GVHD).
Advantages of Stem Cells Research
Stem cell therapy has brought about a lot of excitement and hope in the medical field. Scientists and researchers believe that this therapy is the solution to many diseases that were thought to be incurable.
It has great potential to treat many diseases that were thought to be incurable before. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia. Alzheimer’s disease, Caner, spinal cord injuries and diabetes have observed commendable improvement in their state post stem cell treatment.
It has decreased the dependency on donor organs and the problem of timely availability of organs. Organs such as kidney and liver can be grown in a lab from stem cells and then used for transplants. If the stem cells are extracted form the patients own body, they do not run the risk of organ rejection from the immune system.
It has thrown light on cell development and growth of organs in humans.
It has opened new doors in the field of clinical research as doctors can study the potential of new drugs without testing them on animals and humans.
It has helped study all the different development stages in a human embryo, study the causes and treatments of birth defects, pregnancy loss and infertility. This can help get rid of fetal anomalies (diseases and abnormalities present during birth) and treat them at an early stage.
There are scientists who believe that stem cells hold the key to reverse aging and may even help prolong life. It has the potential to delay aging and in future may cure aging all together.
Embryonic stem cells are the most adaptable as they have the potential to differentiate into any cell type and have greater potential in stem cell therapy than fully grown stem cells which are pre-specialized.
The disadvantages of stem cell therapy
Stem cell was discovered only a few decades ago and there are certain areas of this therapy that cannot be overlooked
This is a new technology and is still undergoing researches. Scientists are still unaware of the long term effects of this therapy as they are directly playing with nature.
The use of embryonic stem cell has set religious groups and political parties into frenzy. This treatment involves destruction of blastocysts post extraction of stem cells. These blastocysts are derived from the excess embryos left after an IVF treatment. This sect of society believes that life begins immediately after conception and this sort of practice is nothing short of killing. It has stirred many debates where people think that this is an immoral and unacceptable practice.
They don’t have solutions for every ailment.
The technology used is a little expensive, though governments of certain countries have special concession for children who have chances of developing certain diseases or are born with abnormalities.
Fully grown stem are pre-specialized and have limited scope of differentiation for instance, blood stem cells can make only blood and not other organs like kidney and liver. Also, they are lesser in numbers and are not easy to cultivate.
The stem cells derived from embryos stand chances of rejection as they are not patients own and stand chances of rejection.
This is a process that is used to preserve stem cell by cooling them at sub-zero temperatures for future use. This process is also used in infertility treatments to freeze sperms, embryos, and ova. The technique is still new and is yet to achieve perfection, though is highly popular among scientists to preserve samples of their research. It is used by hospitals and research institutes.
Cryoprotectants– help in rapid freezing of the substance, turning it into a glass like state that does not have any crystal like formation. They protect the cells from getting killed and lower the freezing point. They also ensure that there is no intra cellular or extra cellular ice formation. The concentration of cryoprotectants is maintained based on the cells that have to be preserved. High concentration may result in harmful chemical reactions.
Liquid nitrogen– This is the main agent in which the samples are stored. Since the boiling temperature of liquid nitrogen is extremely low (-195.8 º C), it is the perfect medium to carry out cryopreservation. Usually, the substances are stored at 77 K or -196˚C. The rate at which cooling tales place has to be maintained as improper cooling techniques can destroy the cells.
De-freezing or thawing is done rapidly using special techniques, so that the cells do not get damaged. Post this, the cells get coaxed into differentiating into a particular cell type and introduced into the patients body.
Legal IssuesHuman Embryonic Stem Cells
Scientists are still studying the scope of human embryonic stem cells as they have the potential to develop into almost any cell in the human body. Using blastocyst, the inner cell mass of the early human embryos, they developed the first human embryonic stem cell lines. The focus was on discovering the true potential of these cells in treating diseases and conditions and to regenerate tissues for disfunctioning cells or organs. They had focused on spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes among others. The source of the stem cells included 7 day embryos which were left post an IVF infertility treatment and 5- 7 week old embryos obtained through abortions and developed tissues such as umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. Since 1998, there have been controversies surrounding extraction of stem cells from embryos as it involved destroying them. As these were far more useful than developed stem cells, researchers focused more on them.
Political ImpactExecutive Action
In 2001 President Bush took office and announced that he would conduct a review of the stem cell research issue. He also ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) guidelines that had been issued by the former administration.
August 9, 2001, President Bush declared that federal funds would only be available to support limited human embryonic stem cell research. As per this policy federal funds could be used for research on 64 existing stem cell lines that had already been derived or were already in existence as of the date of the announcement. He had passed this as he believed that the existing stem cell lines had been destroyed already and could not develop as humans.
March 9, 2009, Bush administration’s eight-year ban on federal funding of embryonic stem research was lifted by President Barack Obama, by Executive Order. The President quoted “Today… we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers, doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years.”
Below given links to the accessible documents on stem cells and the lab procedure.
Protocols from the University of California, San Francisco
WiCell Research Institute Technical Information: Protocols & Work Flow
To avoid this form of contamination, it’s mandatory to perform routine screening of all the organisms in cell cultures.
Stem cells Ethical and moral issues
If stem cell therapy has given a ray of hope to many, it has also given birth to various debates. While stem cells from the umbilical cord blood or the patients own body has no big impact, the idea extracting and using stem cells from live embryos has raised many ethical questions. The possibility of using human embryonic stem cells questions the two fundamentals that are highly respected one; one principle supports the prevention and elevation of human suffering and the other beckons us to value and respect human life.
The stem cells derived from the human embryos are extracted from IVF embryos, with due consent of the donors. Harvesting embryonic stem cells causes destruction of blastocycts. Blastocysts are structures that are formed in the early stages of embryogenesis. Supporters of embryonic stem cell research state that since blastocysts are a cluster of 150 cells and don’s even have a nervous systems, they cannot be classified as “live” or human beings. This means that extracting stem cells from embryos does not qualify as killing. Also harvesting these stem cells promises to get rid of various diseases and unlike develped stem cells, these can be stimulated to form any part of the body tissue and generate organs for transplant (pluripotent). Develped cells have limited potential to differentiate into a limited number of cell types (multipotent). They believe the practical aspects of embryonic stem cells make it more suitable for therapy as they can be easily cultured and are found in large numbers. Comparatively, Develped stem cells are rare and their number cannot be easily increased in cultures.
This is argued by people who are firmly against the concept of using stem cells from embryos as they believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Once the stem cells are extracted, the embryo ‘dies’. According to them, destroying the embryo is equivalent to killing. Proponents of this believe that using embryonic stem cell is unnecessary as Develped stem cells from bone marrow, brain and skin have already treated diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, leukemia etc. Some patients who need compatible stem cells refuse to use embryonic stem cells to get cured as they believe that they do not want to take a ‘life’ to get a kidney or see better. Various religious organizations and political parties have also opposed the idea as they believe that science should only use umbilical cord blood and develped stem cells to cure diseases and embryonic stem cells are ‘live’.
The matter is very delicate with various schools of thought having their own point of view. Its important here to figure out which life is more valuable, the one that is still to exist or the one that is straining to live.
In 2005, scientists at Harvard University scientists announced a break-through discovery that combines “blank” embryonic stem cells with developed skin cells, rather than with fertilized embryos, to create all-purpose stem cells viable to treat diseases and disabilities.
This discovery doesn’t result in the death of fertilized human embryos, and thus would effectively respond to pro-life objections to embryonic stem cell research and therapy.
Harvard researchers warned that it could take up to ten years to perfect this highly promising process.
As South Korea, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, India and other countries rapidly pioneer this new technological frontier, the US is being left farther and farther behind in medical technology. The US is also losing out on billions in new economic opportunities at a time when our country sorely needs new sources of revenues.
One Type Of Stem Cell Creates A Niche For Another Type In Bone Marrow
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have the ability to self-renew and to develop into any kind of blood cell, which enables them to replenish the entire blood and immune system.
Scientists have traced these qualities to a distinct locale or niche within the bone marrow that HSCs home in on, but the identity and function of the niche-forming constituents have not been clearly defined.
Now, the precise source of HSC maintenance and regulation within the bone marrow has been discovered by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) researchers and members of a multi-institutional team.
The researchers report in a published study that the HSCs retain their unique features in response to signals from another stem cell population, the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which create a supportive bone marrow niche for the HSCs.
“This is the first demonstration that one type of stem cell can regulate another type of stem cells,” said.
World first windpipe transplant in child using stem cells
FaqWhat are stem cells?
Stem cells are unspecialized cells i.e. they do not have any specific function. On given the necessary stimulation they have the ability to undergo mitotic cell division and differentiate into various cell types. There cell are found in mammals and have been path breaking in terms of curing disorders. They promise to decrease the dependency on donor organs and also decrease the risk on organ rejection.
How can I get my babies stem cells? How will they help my child?The umbilical cord blood cells are rich in stem cells. Immediately after the baby is born, the blood from the cord is extracted using a syringe and cyopreserved. These can be store for 21 years. Using these stem cells, doctors can regenerate your child’s organs and cure him of various diseases like leukemia and kidney failure. Since the organs are developed from their stem cells, you don’t have to rely on donor organs and your child does not have to face the risk of organ rejection.
3. Will my child be at risk while extracting stem cells from the umbilical cord?
There is absolutely no risk for the mother or the child while extracting the stem cells. These stem cells also benefit those who are genetically related to the child as the transplant is more readily accepted within family.
4. Can these stem cells be donated?
Stem cells can be donated and they have a higher success rates in transplants, than organs taken from live donors.
5. What are embryonic stem cells?
These are the stem cells that are extracted from embryos. The embryos can be acquired from extra embryos in an IVF treatment. Scientists are also attempting to extract these embryos from the amniotic fluid. Embryonic stem cells are said to be the most “malleable” as they can be differentiate into unlimited cell types, unlike fully grown stem cells.
6. What are fully grown stem cells?
These are stem cells that can be extracted from a matured fully grown. Stem cells are found in the bone marrow, skin and brain. These are not as adaptable as embryonic stem cells as the stem cells derived from a given part can only be stimulate to become a particular cell type. E.g. stem cells derived from the skin cells can only form skin and nerve cells and not liver cells.
7. Have the stem cells successfully treated diseases?
Stem cells have given a new hope to many blood cancer afflicts. Stem cells, on stimulation, have replaced the bone marrow and helped the body endure higher doses of chemotherapy. This has helped many get rid of cancer for good. The stem cells have also successfully treated diabetes and advanced kidney cancer.
I am pregnant. Should I speak to my gynecologist about extracting the stem cell post birth?It’s important that you intimidate your doctor before hand. The stem cells are found in fresh umbilical cord blood cells, which if not extracted are discarded. They can also advice you on the cost incurred and highlight the use of stem cells.
9. Why use embryonic stem cells when there is so much controversy surrounding it? Why not just stick to fully grown stem cell research?
Human embryonic stem cells (hES) are pluripotent. This means that they can be stimulated to various cell types and have the ability to form all the tissues found in the embryos. They display much greater development potential than fully grown stem cells which are multipotent, i.e. they can differentiate only into few particular cell types.
10. Do stem cells also help in nervous system diseases?
Research done on animals has shown positive results in case of Parkinson’s and spinal chord injuries. Further clinical trials are being human beings with good progress. The exact effect will be known only after sometime.
11. How is the fully grown stem cells extracted? Is there any risk?
The extraction procedure is simple and same as extracting blood from the body. The risk involved is as little as that during routine diagnostic procedures.