Stem Cell Research
Since their discovery, the ethics of human embryonic stem cells have been debated. As the ongoing controversy over human embryonic stem cells persists, we continue to look for alternative means of acquiring similar task-performing cells. Margaret Goodell was one of the first to propose extracting stem cells from other sources, most notably bone marrow. Without the ethics baggage, bone marrow derived cells seemed to put aborted fetuses out of the picture. Yet, according to Catherine Verfaillie of the University of Minnesota, bone marrow cells with the same ability as stem cells are very rare. She estimates that perhaps only one out of ten billion marrow cells are versatile enough to have the ability to adapt into other functioning cells. Although this could be done, the process of finding these cells makes it difficult. Bone marrow “stem” cells, if you will, have no molecular marker that differentiates them from other bone marrow cells. The only way to recognize the difference between them is by a process of tests, which makes finding them excruciatingly difficult. They are more common in younger children, however, they have been found in some donors who were in their late forties and fifties. Verrfaillie believes this to be attributed to the development stages in youth. Cell propagation and differentiation were witnessed for the first time and cells were recognized as the building blocks of life, capable of giving rise to other cells and key to understanding human development. In the early 1900’s European researchers realized that the various type of blood cells e.g. white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets all came from a particular ‘stem cell’. However, it was not until 1963 that the first quantitative descriptions of the self-renewing activities of transplanted mouse bone marrow cells were documented by Canadian researchers Ernest A McCulloch and James E Till. Research into adult stem cells in animals and in humans has been...
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