THE BENEFITS OF STEM CELL TREATMENT
Scientists are coming up with new stem cell treatments every day. They are determining how our stem cells transform or differentiate into the highly specialized and diverse range of cells that make up the human body. This research into stem cell treatments alone is helpful in treating many illnesses and diseases. An understanding into how these cells operate can give great insight into diseases like cancer, which are caused by abnormal cellular behavior. The unfortunate reality is that as we age, or when we are injured or become ill, our body is depleted of stem cells that act as vital repairmen for different parts of our bodies. This is one of the many benefits of stem cell treatments; they allow us to replenish our natural supply of stem cells in a safe and effective manner, which works as an incredible treatment for many different conditions.
The biggest benefit of stem cell treatments is the formulation of stem cells for medical therapies. For example, we currently rely upon donated organs and tissues to replace or repair damaged or dysfunctional ones. This presents a problem because the waiting list for donated organs and tissues is extremely long, and many people suffer for years or die awaiting transplants. With the currently available stem cell treatments this doesn’t have to be the reality. Stem cells offer an excellent and reliable form of replacement cells to treat diseases and reduce the suffering and mortality rates of various conditions.
To put things in perspective, this is a brief list of the conditions that stem cell treatments have been proven to effectively treat; Parkinson’s disease, type 1 diabetes, arthritis, burn victims, and cardiovascular diseases. Patients who have had a heart attack that has caused damage to the muscle could have the damaged tissue replaced by new and healthy muscle cells. Parkinson’s patients who suffer with severe tremors, difficulty walking and trouble sleeping will no longer have to suffer when their dysfunctional and damaged brain tissue is replaced with new, healthy stem cells that have been used to create fully functional brain tissue. Most promising of all is that stem cell treatments have the ability to address genetic defects present from birth by introducing cells without these defects present. This could save people with certain conditions from a life of difficulty, pain and torment. The benefits of stem cell treatments for burn victims in particular have been enormous. All a burn victim needs is a very small piece of skin made from stem cells to cover a burn that is often much larger than the size of the piece of skin used in the treatment. Stem cell treatments are also extremely beneficial for the pharmaceutical industry. The implications of this are incredible; imagine being able to test a brand new drug using stem cells created specifically for the drug being tested. For instance, a cancer cell line could be used to test an anti-tumor medication. This will allow pharmaceutical companies to know how safe and effective a drug is before it is used on human models in clinical trials. This gives medical science a huge advantage.
Because of all the groundbreaking research, clinical trials, and the use of stem cell treatments, the phrase “irreversible damage” will no longer be a part of our vocabulary; stem cell treatments can make irreversible damage a thing of the past. People will no longer have to endure painful surgeries and potentially dangerous medications with awful side effects. Chronic pain patients can be given a much greater quality of life. People born with serious, debilitating genetic defects can be given a new lease on life. Burn victims can avoid painful treatments and regenerate their skin quickly and efficiently. Pharmaceutical companies can be more confident regarding the safety and efficacy of a particular drug, using stem cells only before the drug is ever used on a single human being.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND STEM CELL TREATMENTS
The reason stem cell treatments have been so attractive and interesting to medical science for so many years is because stem cells are the so-called “building blocks of nature”. Stem cell treatments rely on the fact that these cells have the ability to grow and develop into specialized cells that make up a wide range of organs and tissues. Since stem cells have the capacity to transform into many different types of tissues they are invaluable to the healing process for many different diseases, conditions and injuries.
Essentially there are two types of stem cells: there are stem cells that are found in certain adult tissues, and there are stem cells that are found in three-to-five-day-old embryos. Adult stem cells are found in several different parts of the body, including; brain tissue, bone marrow, muscle tissue, skin tissue, the blood and liver tissue. These adult stem cells are very valuable and can change into a multitude of different cell types however they aren’t quite as valuable as their embryonic counterparts. The stem cells found in embryos are pluripotent, meaning they have the incredible ability to develop into any of the 220 different types of cells in the human body. In addition to being extremely versatile, embryonic stem cells are easier to grow in the laboratory than adult stem cells. This is because adult stem cell lines proliferate for a limited period of time, while embryonic stem cells will continue dividing forever.
Medical science has known about the potential of stem cell treatments since 1956 when they performed the first bone marrow transplant. The stem cells within a donor’s bone marrow are used to regenerate healthy bone marrow in patients with leukemia and other blood diseases. Bone marrow transplants are still being utilized to this day because they are so successful at promoting the growth of new, healthy cells.
Embryonic stem cell treatments offer even more sensational treatment outcomes for patients suffering with type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and blindness. Embryonic, otherwise known as pluripotent stem cell treatment research will ultimately usher in a new era of pharmaceutical testing, new cures for many diseases, and a better overall understanding of genetic abnormalities and human development.
Scientists first began studying embryonic stem cells in mice during the early 1980s. Unfortunately mouse embryos develop much differently than human embryos, which lead researchers to find a way to isolate human embryonic stem cells. This big break came in 1998 when a team lead by James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin successfully harvested stem cells from human embryos donated by fertility clinics. This was the first time anyone was able to accomplish this and since then scientists have been able to develop approximately 400 stem cell lines using both private and public funds.
Embryonic stem cells are harvested in one of two ways; they are either harvested from existing human embryos, or they are harvested from embryos that have been created using a type of cloning process referred to as somatic cell nuclear transfer. This cloning process was developed by the Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut, famous for cloning “Dolly the sheep” in 1996. During somatic cell nuclear transfer, the nucleus of a human egg cell is removed and replaced with the nucleus of a donor’s adult cell, which contains the person’s DNA. The egg is then stimulated to begin subdividing, eventually growing into an embryo with stem cells that can be harvested. The reason somatic cell nuclear transfer is so promising is because it creates an embryo with stem cells that contain the same DNA code as the cell nucleus donor. This will guarantee that any therapies created using stem cells harvested from these embryos will be compatible with that donor’s immune system. For example, a patient who suffered a heart attack could be given new heart tissue that already contains his or her own DNA, greatly reducing the possibility of the body rejecting the new tissue.
In 2007 a team of scientists were able to create pluripotent stem cells from adult human skin cells. This was a major breakthrough in the field of stem cell treatments because this would remove the difficult challenge of obtaining donated embryos. It would also no longer be necessary to destroy donated embryos, eliminating the controversy surrounding stem cell research.
Stem cell research and stem cell treatments have both come a long way respectively. Every day scientists and researchers are learning new information and are making discoveries that lead to new stem cell treatments. Right now, clinics located throughout the United States are utilizing stem cell treatments during same-day procedures. They are treating a wide variety of diseases and ailments such as skin, corneal and bone injuries by grafting tissues made from stem cells. They are also treating degenerative and damaged muscle tissue and spinal injuries by harvesting a patient’s own stem cells and injecting them into the damaged site.
Stem cell treatments are extremely promising and exciting. In the past, suffering patients would be at the whim of a painful surgery, or they would be forced to endure trial and error with potentially dangerous drugs. Understanding the science behind stem cells and different stem cell treatments can give patients the opportunity to seek these treatments as an alternative to potentially dangerous and debilitating drugs and surgeries.