why do we need stem cell research
Why are Stem Cells Important? To list the ways in which stem cells are important is a broad task because stem cells use is virtually limitless. Stem cells have the potential to treat an enormous range of diseases and conditions that plague millions of people around the world. Their ability to treat so many diseases rests on their unique properties of:
Self-renewal: stem cells can renew themselves almost indefinitely. This is also known as proliferation. Differentiation: stem cells have the special ability to differentiate into cells with specialised characteristics and functions. Unspecialised: stem cells themselves are largely unspecialised cells which then give rise to specialised cells. One reason that stem cells are important is due to human development from stem cells. As such, an understanding of their unique attributes and control can teach us more about early human development. Diseases such as cancer are thought to result from abnormal cell proliferation and differentiation. This means that an understanding of where things go 'wrong' in stem cell division and thus lead to cancer can help us find ways to prevent the dysfunctional changes or employ effective ways to treat them with targeted drugs. Stem cell research has the potential to teach us more about how birth defects occur and how these can be prevented or possibly reversed. An understanding of the regulation and chemical triggers of stem cell proliferation and differentiation are key to addressing birth defects. Probably the most important therapeutic value for stem cells is the use of cell therapies.
A cell therapy is a treatment that replaces dysfunctional or diseased tissues with stem cells. At present, stem cells are already used in cell therapies for treatment of some cancer types but this use is still small in the scheme of diseases affecting humans today. We are also using organ transplants but unfortunately, the number of organs available for transplant is scarce in comparison with those requiring an organ transplant. Many people suffer endlessly awaiting a transplant and others will die before they are able to receive one. The potential for stem cells to replace damaged cells and tissues is an exciting one for those who will require a transplant during their lifetime. Diseases that it is expected stem cells will treat one day include Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases as well as those diseases affecting the retina and heart. Clearly, stem cell use is exciting and holds great promise for treating and perhaps one day curing many diseases. Their importance ranges from an understanding of the principles behind human development to the cell based therapies addressing those aspects that go awry during development and lead to disease. For those who are already suffering from a disease that stem cells can treat, such as certain cancer types, stem cells may currently have more personal importance and relevance. For others, it is likely that at some point in their life, they or a loved one will be affected by a disease that stem cells can treat, so it's good to keep abreast of stem cell research.
The well-being and health of those you love is important and equally important are the stem cells that may one day prolong and improve your own life. To find out more about how stem cell research is helping to create medicines to fight disease, read. Since their discovery, stem cells have been hailed as the ultimate answer for crippling and incurable diseases such as Alzheimer s, Parkinson s and other conditions that leave vital organs like heart or nerves damaged beyond repair. Researchers from the University of Cambridge, under the leadership of Professor Austin Smith, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge, recently published a paper detailing a new technology that can transform adult stem cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). This technique is able to reliably reprogram adult cells into iPS rapidly and can forego the need to rely on mammalian embryos to generate pluripotent stem cells. Working with stem cells has proved a much greater challenge than foreseen, however, as both confront stem cell research from all sides. Stem cells are tricky to work with and although they are indefinite, can stop dividing at any time. The are also the cells with the least amount of differentiation (or development). These cells occur during embryonic development and the harvesting of such cells results in the death of the rest of the embryo. The resulting loss of the embryo is the cause of the ethical dilemmas concerning the usage of stem cells and the development of stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells have a great deal of potential but the restrictions put in place for federally funded research projects have limited their use and the controversy over the ethical issues has consumed a great deal of time in the science community. This can be bypassed altogether if adult mammalian cells are reprogrammed to form iPS, which are cells almost identical to those from embryonic stem cells but which come from adult tissue instead of embryos, and the same results can be obtained. The technique for reprogramming relies on the usage of a combination of chemical inhibitors provided by Stem Cell Sciences, a company providing commercial use of stem cells and stem cell technologies. These chemical inhibitors, including use of enzymes MEK and GSK3 in combination with a cell growth promoter and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) provide the key to transition fully differentiated adult cells into cells that are indistinguishable from authentic embryonic stem (ES) cells. Stem Cell Sciences developed this Culticell iSTEM media range to overcome the limitations in current approaches to producing reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells. Smith and his team developed this key step in the successful complete transfer of adult cells into iPS using this specific combination of enzymes, inhibitors and cellular growth indicators. This proprietary technique greatly facilitates the simple, most reliable and efficient route to obtaining authentic induced pluripotent stem cells and will form the basis for the industrialization of iPS cell production, noted Dr.
Tim Allsopp, Chief Scientific Officer of Stem Cell Sciences. This is an important validation of the technology Professor Smith and his team have developed and Stem Cell Sciences is very pleased to be working with Cambridge University and Professor Smith s team on this important breakthrough. This breakthrough of complete transformation follows on the heels of in which progression to iPS was limited and extremely inefficient. This process has greatly improved both the success and efficiency rate making a reliable source to generate iPS without depending on embryonic cells. Stem cells are unique because they have the potential to be any number of various cell types. They are undifferentiated cells, and if at the earliest stage of development, they have the ability to create a completely new individual. As such, they can be directed to make any number of useful tissues, including nervous tissue, heart tissue or a new liver. Research with stem cells can help us develop procedures like gene therapy, testing drugs with lessened need for animal and human test subjects, genetic disorder correction and replacement of damaged tissues or organs. The possibilities are endless, applications in real world situations limitless and now the technology to propel us into the future of stem cell applications is very real. What is a Stem Cell? blogs for.
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