Stem cells have attracted a lot of interest from many scientists in the recent years. The discovery of the cells’ ability to differentiate into daughter cells is fascinating and promising. Scientists argue that the discovery is a solution to many challenges facing the human race. However, many studies conducted have been criticized and termed untrue. The primary goal of this paper is to explore the impact of embryonic stem cells in medical field. It shows how embryonic stem cells can be used to cure diabetes and cancer among other diseases. Further, the paper presents underway research studies involving embryonic stem cells. Literature submitted in this document is helpful to the stakeholders in the field of medicine. The literature will help improve the field by providing additional information on how stem cells can be used in disease control.
In the recent years, many scientific discoveries have been great in the field of developmental biology and cells. The development of embryonic stem cells from mouse and human embryos is significant in research. James Thomson, a researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998 (Itskovitz-Eldor et al., 2007). Before then, animal embryos were the only ones used in research.
According to Weissman (2000), adult cells are undifferentiated cells present in the body after the development of the embryo. Singh-Cundy and Cain (2012) noted that adult stem cells differentiate from specialized cells otherwise the mother cells. The cells assist in tissue and organ repair all over the body. Due to their unique features, adult stem cells have received a lot of attention in research in medical field. (Weissman, 2000)
Many scientists have developed interest to determine the likelihood of treating diseases using cell-based therapies otherwise reparative or regenerative medicine. With the increasing number of chronic diseases, many people believe that research in stem cells will enhance treatment to many incurable conditions.
Definition of stem cells
According to Panno (2005), a stem cell is a type of cell that can reproduce itself and generate new cells of functional types. As such, stem cells have the capacity to produce daughter cells similar to mother cells. The daughter cells replicate to form more cells. This is the main reason researchers refer to these cells as stem cells. The ability to break and form similar daughter cell is referred to as differentiation. In addition, Moore (2012) defined stem cells as cells with the ability to break indefinitely to produce specialized cells. Based on their origin, the cells can be classified as either embryonic stem cells (ECSs), adult stem cells or embryonic germ stem cells (EGCs)
Importance of stem cells
According to Kelly (2007), cell development is one of the primary functions of stem cells. During the “development process of an embryo, inner cells replicate to form the entire body of specialized organs such as the heart, lungs, and skin” (Kelly, 2007). Moreover, they do replenish the body muscles with new tissues whenever they are worn out. In addition, Slack (2012) pointed out that diseases like cancer are thought to occur due to abnormal cell differentiation and proliferation. Therefore, understanding the causes of the abnormal growth can help find the cure for cancer.
According to Srivastava and Shankar (2012), cord blood stem cells are significant in treating children with blood disorders and genetic diseases such as anemia. As such, “the cells are drawn from the cord blood of the umbilical cord, and frozen in cell banks to be used later for treatment” (Srivastava and Shankar, 2012). However, adult treatment is challenging, but scientists have devised methods of using double cord cell transplants. One advantage of these cells over bone marrow transplants is that they auger well with the body immune system, decreasing the chances of being rejected. However, Srivastava and Shankar (2012) noted that these stem cells are limited to treating only blood-related syndromes.
According to Forman (2008), the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) was a breakthrough in stem cell biology. Scientists have discovered that adult stem cells can be controlled to assume characteristics as those of embryonic stem cells. Researchers use “IPSCs to develop brain cells for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and the Downs’s syndrome” (Forman, 2006). Further, the discovery meant that treatment could be made from a patient’s body, consequently minimizing the risk of rejection by the immune system.
Stem cells in research
Research conducted at the University of Minnesota showed that stem cells can be used to treat leukemia. According to Forman (2008), leukemia destroys white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off disease-causing pathogens. Therefore, the body’s ability to fight diseases is reduced. The common treatment for leukemia is by exposing the body to harmful radiations in order to kill the cancerous cells. However, with advances in stem cell biology, researchers have managed to change embryonic stem cells to form cancer-killing cells. Scientists believe the discovery will be effective in treating leukemia.
Scientists have established that stem cells could be used to cure diabetes. Diabetes is a widespread disease that kills more than five hundred thousand people in America. The disease interferes with the process of making insulin that is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. This results in a change in the composition of body proteins which sometimes causes blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Currently, the disease is controlled by insulin injections. Fortunately, scientists based in Israel announced that they have discovered insulin-making cells from stem cells.
According to Singh-Cundy and Cain (2012), stem cells could be used to recover burned skins. Burns are disfiguring as well as life threatening. Deep scars on the hands reduce the ability to perform duties while severe scars on the face can limit a person to speak. Furthermore, Forman (2008) noted that there is hope in finding the cure for Alzheimer disease. This is a disease that causes memory loss by killing the brain cells. The disease is fatal to the elderly. However, researchers have discovered that stem cell therapy could cure Alzheimer disease as well as restore a person’s ordinary life.
According to Moore (2012), people with spinal injuries are likely to walk again. Moore (2012) noted that embryonic stem cells provide an insight in the development of fetus and; therefore, stem cell research could show how organs form inside the uterus. The information will be significant in preventing inborn brain defects and abnormal behavior. Forman (2008) further noted that scientists consider using embryonic stem cells to clone new organs and replace the damaged tissues. A method referred to as therapeutic cloning involves producing a similar cell to the one being cloned. Although many people criticize the technology, it is welcomed by the drug companies who now test drugs on organs rather than the human body.
Forman, L. (2008). Stem cell research. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation. Itskovitz-Eldor, J., Shapiro S. S., Waknitz M. A.,Swiergiel J. J., Marshall V. S., & Jones J. M. (2007). Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science, 282 (5391), 1145-1147.
Kelly, E. B. (2007). Stem cells. London: Greenwood Press
Moore, P. (2012). Stem cell research. New York: Rosen Central.
Panno, J. (2005). Stem cell research: Medical applications and ethical controversy. New York, NY: Donver.
Singh-Cundy, A. & Cain, M. (2012). Discover Biology (5th ed.). New York, NY: Norton & Company.
Slack, J. M. W. (2012). Stem cells: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Srivastava, R., & Shankar, S. (2012). Stem cells and human diseases. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weissman, L. (2000). Translating stem and progenitor cell biology to the clinic: barriers and opportunities. Science, 287 (1), 1442–1446.