Our bodies contain many specialized cells that carry out specific functions. These specialized cells are called differentiated cells. Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They act as a repair system for the body. They are unspecialized cells, so they cannot do specific functions in the body. It can create the potential for the cells to be used to grow replacement tissues. American development biologist James Thomson (1958), from the University of Wisconsin School of medicine, won the race to isolate and human embryonic stem cells. On November 6 1998, the ‘journal science’ published the results of Thompson’s research. It described how he used embryos from fro fertility clinics which were donated by couples who no longer needed them, and developed ways to extract stem cells and keep them reproducing indefinitely.
With the ability to develop into any one of the 220 cell types in the body, stem cells hold great promise for treating a host of debilitating illness, including diabetes, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and spinal cord injury. They also provide scientists with models of human disease and a new ways of testing drugs more effectively in living organisms. But for all the hopes invested, progress has been slow. It has helped that stem cell research has been steeped in controversy, with different groups questing the ethics of harvesting stem cells from human embryos.
In 2007 Thomson and Shinya Yamanaka, from Kyoto university, Japan, both independently found a way to turn ordinary human skin cells into stem cells. Both groups used four genes to reprogram human skin cells. Their work is being heralded as an opportunity to overcome problems including the shortage of human embryonic stem cells and restrictions on U.S. federal funding for research.
How stem cell therapy works?
Researches grow stem cells in lab. These developed stem cells are manipulated to specialize into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. These manipulated specialized cells can be implanted into the heart muscle. The healthy implanted heart muscle could then contribute to repairing defective heart muscle. The first stem cell therapy was a bone marrow transplant performed by French oncologist Georges Mathew in 1958 on five workers at the Vinca nuclear institute in Yugoslavia who had been affected by a criticality accident.
Stem cell therapies have become very popular in recent years, as people are seeking the latest alternative treatments for their many conditions. Stem cell therapies are very expensive to pursue. Even simple joint injections can cost $1,000 and more advancement treatments can rise in cost up to $100,000 depending on the condition. Patients must do their research and ask as many questions as they can before financially committing to treatment. Since it is a life changing treatment, it will effectively cost high.
Future stem cell treatments
The stem cell treatment can helps us curing various diseases in the future. But it is important not to overhype the potential of stem cells and to accurately communicate findings to the public. We must not allow the misleading of some people says that we can cure the untreatable diseases with stem cell treatments. However with more research and investment, I believe that stem cell therapy could transform disease outcomes of many patients.
“The regenerative medicine revolution is upon us. Like iron and steel to the industrial revolution, like the microchip to the tech revolution, stem cells will be the driving force of this next revolution.” -Cade Hildreth