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Stem Cells and the Role of the Immune System
Stem cells possible uses is still a hotly debated topic, but research continues unabated into their possible medical applications. There are even some products, mainly for cosmetic applications that are now in the market.
Stem cells- in lay mans terms- are cells which exist in most multi-cellular organisms and can multiply and become other completely different cells.
They are categorized as cells that are not part of a specific organ, such as hearth muscle cells,skin cells, brain cells,or hair cells for that matter. Like raw material waiting to be made into something else.
Stem cell research has the potential to make a huge impact in the treatment of serious diseases and possible repair of damaged body parts, as well as to overcome genetic disorders.
As some in the medical and scientific field have termed them, stem cells have the ability to become another cell, such as a heart muscle cell,blood cell or other body part cell. In other words,stem cells have the ability to mutate and become specialized. This does not happen by itself. Scientists have to coax or train stem cells in the laboratory to adapt to new roles and change into new cells thus becoming an integral part of the organ or tissue for which they are intended.
Stem cells are formed and can be obtained from bone marrow, from which bone marrow transplants originates, from placental tissue, and from blood as in blood donations.
There are two main potential medical uses for these cells; they can be used, as previously mentioned, as a way to repair damaged organs-regenerative application, such as in the case of heart attack patients. They can also be used to test the body's reactions and effectiveness of new medicinal drugs-investigative application.
Research is also underway to use them to fight cancer by genetically altering them to target cancer cells, and into their use in treating several blood illnesses, for the treatment of liver and lung disease and many other medicinal applications. With over 500,000 Americans suffering from heart disease per year, this type of treatment may finally offer hope.
Other possible medical uses are to treat Parkinson's Disease and many other degenerative diseases. Potential uses exist for the treatment of serious burns and wounds, injuries of the spinal cord, and blindness. With a reasonable assumption that soon stem cells will be enlisted in the battle against HIV. Stem cells are also being used in various medical applications and procedures, including aesthetically oriented applications.
The controversy revolving around stem cells seems to emanate from their genetic alteration and tinkering by scientist. Some have argued that this goes contrary to religion, others argue that the possible benefits outweigh any moral issues.
The latter seems to have more sound judgment in my view, since medicine has always depended on finding and tinkering with substances, products, organisms and so forth.
Several medical centers have been created with the sole purpose of research and treatment with stem cells. One such place is the University of Miami Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute which in recent medical test demonstrated that stem cells can repair cardiac cells in heart attack victims (Med.Miami.edu August 4,2009).
One thing seems certain; that research into stem cells many properties, their use and treatment options will continue unabated as will the controversy surrounding them.
For further reading
- What are the potential uses of human stem cells and the obstacles that must be overcome before these
There are many ways in which human stem cells can be used in research and the clinic. Studies of human embryonic stem cells will yield information about the complex events that occur during human development. A primary goal of this work is to identif
Stem Cell Poll
Do you feel that stem cell research should continue?
© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez