Stem Cell Treatment – Stem Cell Research – Stem Cell Therapy
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell treatment and stem cell therapy may be considered controversial and are, perhaps, viewed as akin to science fiction by some people. However, stem cell treatments have been used regularly in veterinary practice since 2003 for the repair of bone and tissue damage, and have a wealth of research highlighting their efficacy in both humans and other animals. Stem cells are found in plentiful supply in embryonic tissue, but are also found in adult tissues. These cells have the ability to self-renew, giving rise to countless generations of new cells with varying abilities to differentiate into specific cell types. By introducing stem cells into an area of damage or pathology, the body can be encouraged to repair and renew regardless of how old the trauma is. Stem cells also show application for inhibiting the death of cells (apoptosis) through disease, making them candidates for use in treating degenerative illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Stem cells from embryos are considered more flexible in terms of their ability to become either new liver cells, new neurons, new skin cells, and so on, whereas adult stem cells tend to be more restricted to the tissue type from which they were taken. New research is showing that this might not necessarily have to remain the case however, with the plasticity of adult stem cells now under investigation. Stem cell use carries little risk of the resulting tissues being rejected, it appears safe, efficient, and almost endless in its possibilities for application.
Potential Stem Cell Treatments
Conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, and cancer, among others, are considered possible candidates for stem cell treatment. Cures for some of these diseases could be closer than previously thought with clinical trials already showing impressive results where stem cells have been used in cases thought intractable. The rapid rate of progression in research and clinical use means that some of the controversial issues, such as the use of embryos as a source of stem cells, have been overcome, with governments around the globe subtly altering their legal policies in order to accommodate new scientific advances. In the US, Bill Clinton was the first president to have to consider the legal issues surrounding stem cells, and subsequent presidents have been forced to readdress the issues time and again in line with medical discoveries. Worldwide, governments have remained generally cautious over the use of this technology but are gradually improving funding access, whilst keeping an eye on the ethics of stem cell treatment, in order to explore the tremendous benefits that appear possible. The credibility of research remains a concern, with some stem cell studies discredited by ethics committees after initial general acceptance of their veracity.
Acquiring Stem Cells for Treatment
Stem cells may be garnered from living adult donors and, indeed, already are in the case of bone marrow transplants. More usually they are taken from discarded embryos leftover after IVF treatment, or from the placenta after birth. Previously the removal of stem cells resulted in the destruction of these embryos, but now it is possible for scientists to remove the stem cells without this occurring. This development negates some of the criticism faced by the technology from religious groups and ethical bodies over the sanctity of life and the attribution of sentience and autonomy to embryos, gametes, and the foetus. Clearly, some debate remains about these issues in relation to stem cell research, but recent improvements in methodology may remove the need for these considerations completely. Clinicians have demonstrated the possibility of taking adult stem cells and seemingly ‘teaching’ them to become cells of a different type to their site of removal, effectively returning them to a similar state to that of the embryonic stem cell. Whilst stem cells from embryos remain more reliable and more economical to work with, the use of adult tissue-derived stem cells could revolutionize the research in this field.
Other uses for Stem Cells
As well as stem cell use in pathology and disease, there are also applications in personal aesthetics such as the regeneration of hair follicles and an end to baldness through stem cell treatment. Stem cells are also considered useful in regenerating the skin after injury, without the scarring usually associated with repair. There are reports of paralyzed patients becoming mobile after years in a wheelchair through the use of stem cells injected into the spinal cord, and the rapid disappearance of tumors in brain tissue after stem cells were injected.
Stem cell treatment provides an exciting possibility to change the face of modern medicine, alleviating pain and suffering, and improving the prognosis for millions withe diseases previously thought incurable.