Stem cells – the cure to Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK's most common life threatening diseases with it affecting over 9,000 people. Statistics show that one in twenty five people in the UK carry the faulty gene, each week five babies are born with the disease and another two young lives are lost. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder caused by a recessive allele. It affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus resulting in inflammations and infections, making it hard to breathe and digest food. As it is caused by a recessive allele, the gene must be homozygous for the offspring to have this disorder. However carriers rarely suffer from minor symptoms such as breathing difficulties. The most common symptoms of sufferers are Recurrent and severe chest infections, malabsorption and failure to thrive, passing of large foul-smelling motions, diabetes, liver failure and infertility. Sadly, there is no definite cure for cystic fibrosis, however there is treatment available. This treatment includes medication, physiotherapy, specialised nutrition and exercise.
However, recent research into stem cells has concluded that, one day, these cells could be the answer to new treatment of CF.
Stem cells are special cells which have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialised cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, 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, these cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out, or damaged, tissues. However, in other organs, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide...
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