Stem cell research

Topics: Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Stem cells Pages: 6 (2037 words) Published: March 28, 2014
Human stem cell research is a novel technology that will benefit society as a whole. This bold statement represents a current debate high on the ethical and political agendas across the globe. Although the potential benefits of using human stem cells in the treatment of diseases are vast and clear, their use remains controversial due to the public perception of their source and methods of extraction. However, it is undeniable stem cell research is key in the treatment and reversal of a range of medical diseases from Parkinson’s disease to diabetes. Second, stem cell research and therapy will potentially save many lives of patients waiting or enduring an organ transplant, as it reduces transplant risks and eliminates many medical resource issues. Lastly, stem cell research aids in the pharmaceutical industry, allowing for drug trials to be streamlined and reduce the use of animals for drug testing. Thus, it is clear that human stem cell research is crucial in the efforts to move medical and pharmaceutical science forward. Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can distinguish into more specific cells. These cells are both malleable and regenerative as they can metastasize to produce more stem cells which are crucial to develop organisms (Stem Cell Network, 2009). There are two general types of stem cells in mammals known as embryonic stem cells (ES cells), which are disjointed from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells which are found in a variety of tissue (Stem Cell Network, 2009). Stem cells are available in all parts of the human body; however, their potency is much higher in a fetus than in an adult body, as ES cells are totipotent within the first couple of cell divisions after fertilization– meaning they can be used to differentiate into all cell types within the adult body plus extraembryonic or placental cells. ES cells are also considered pluripotent because they have the capabilities of self-renewal and can differentiate into all cell types. Adult stem cells on the other hand are multipotent cells as they can develop into more than one cell type but not all cell types. Adult stem cells are used by the body to repair infected, damaged or missing cells in different organs and tissue throughout the body, rather than differentiating into cells with specific functions (National Institutes of Health, 2009). Thus the retrieval of these stem cells, especially ES cells, is a topic of debate due to the source of material and its potential for life – a variable difficult to measure. However, what can be measured are rates of illnesses and diseases. Estimates of seven to 10 million people are suffering with Parkinson’s disease globally (Parkinson’s disease Foundation, 2014). Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects 2.5 million people around the world and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is responsible for as many as 5 of every 100,000 deaths in people aged 20 or older (The John Hopkins University, 2013). These life threatening diseases can potentially be cured through the technology and medical therapies of stem cell research. Stem cells have amazing capabilities of self-renewal and plasticity, therefore they can potentially be genetically modified to deliver substances to different organs of the body and stimulate the function of existing cells. For example obtaining dopaminargic neurons from ES cells in laboratories and using them to treat the aging Parkinson’s afflicted brain (EuroStemCell, 2013). In the year 2000, Dr. Evan Snyder at Harvard University implanted human neural stem cells (NSCs) into cancerous mice. He found that the NSCs were penetrating and surrounding the tumors, then subsequently hunting down malignant cells that were drifting into healthy tissues. He then discovered that NSCs expressed an enzyme which shrunk 80 percent of one mouse’s tumor (Aboody et al., 2000). This finding is not only ground breaking but also clear evidence that stem cell therapy has the potential to...

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