A stem cell can be defined as an undifferentiated cell of a multi-cellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type and from which other kinds of cell arise by differentiation. They are mother cells that have the potential to become any type of cell in the body. One of the main characteristics of stem cells is their ability to self-renew or multiply while maintaining the potential to develop into other types of cells. They can become cells of the blood, heart, bones, skin, muscles, brain etc. There are different sources of stem cells but all types of stem cells have the same capacity to develop into multiple types of cells.
Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources:
- Embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development (embryonic stem cells) and
- Tissue (adult stem cells).
Since stem cells have remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth, this unique characteristic that give them their very essence of internal repair systems. They are described as little doctors due to their microscopic sizes and their repair functions.
Therefore, we may ask ourselves, how then does this come about?
What Are The Potential Uses Of Human Stem Cells?
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 identify how undifferentiated stem cells become the differentiated cells that form the tissues and organs. Scientists know that turning genes on and off is central to this process.
Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to abnormal cell division and differentiation. A more complete understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of these processes may yield information about how such diseases arise and suggest new strategies for therapy.
Human stem cells are currently being used to test new drugs. New medications are tested for safety on differentiated cells generated from human multicellular cell lines. Other kinds of cell lines have a long history of being used in this way. Cancer cell lines, for example, are used to screen potential anti-tumor drugs. The availability of multicellular stem cells would allow drug testing in a wider range of cell types. However, to screen drugs effectively, the conditions must be identical when comparing different drugs
Perhaps the most important potential application of human stem cells is the generation of cells and tissues that could be used for cell-based therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace ailing or destroyed tissue, but the need for transplantable tissues and organs far outweighs the available supply. Stem cells, directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
A few small studies have also been carried out in humans, usually in patients who are undergoing open-heart surgery. Several of these have demonstrated that stem cells that are injected into the circulation or directly into the injured heart tissue appear to improve cardiac function and/or induce the formation of new capillaries.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure are some of the heart diseases that can are under study by scientists to be treated using the stem cells replication idea.
In people who suffer from type 1 diabetes, the cells of the pancreas that normally produce insulin are destroyed by the patient’s own immune system. New studies indicate that it may be possible to direct the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells in cell culture to form insulin-producing cells that eventually could be used in transplantation therapy for persons with diabetes.
Stem cells serve as internal repair systems to living organisms as they replenish through cell division essentially without limit as long as the person or animal is alive. This cause the damaged cells are disposed while news one is created.
The stem cells have also been found to be capable to treat eye defects. This has been one of the breakthroughs of using the stem cells as new medicine.
The following is a list of steps in successful cell-based treatments that scientists will have to learn to control to bring such treatments to the clinic. To be useful for transplant purposes, stem cells must be reproducibly made to:
- Proliferate extensively and generate sufficient quantities of cells for making tissue.
- Differentiate into the desired cell type(s).
- Survive in the recipient after transplant.
- Integrate into the surrounding tissue after transplant.
- Function appropriately for the duration of the recipient’s life.
- Avoid harming the recipient in any way.
Also, to avoid the problem of immune rejection, researchers are experimenting with different research strategies to generate tissues that will not be rejected.
To summarize, stem cells offer exciting promise for future therapies. For more information about this topic and others visit www.awaremednetwork.com. Dr Dalal. Akoury is an expert in integrative medicine. While at it, visit http://www.integrativeaddiction2015.com for information about the integrative addiction conference 2015 that she be holding, the conference will provide information on holistic approaches to issues of addiction and how to deal with patients of addiction.