Many of us have heard of the great advances that are taking place in the field of medicine, and one such area where a large amount of progress has been seen is in stem cell research.
Stem cell research is currently being used to find new cures for conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, to name but a few. Their role in the discovery of new drugs is highly useful.
But what exactly are these cells? Here we take a look at some of the basic aspects of these wonderful cells.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the most basic of cells in the body. They are the source of all other cells in various organs present in our body.
The dominant role of the cells is to divide into a number of daughter cells, that then go on to undergo a course of action of ‘differentiation’ leading to the formation of structures such as the heart, brain, spleen, kidneys, eyes, liver etc.
This character of theirs makes them totally rare. Think of it like a stem of a plant that branches out with leaves.
Where do they come from?
Scientists often harvest cells from different tissues in the body.
The most shared source is the human embryo. Stem cells can be extracted when the embryo is just 3 to 5 days old (these embryos are from donated eggs, not from a growing fetus)!
At this stage, the cells can become anything they want to become, making their role in research highly useful. They can also be derived from adult tissues such as the fat and bone marrow.
In addition, they can be derived from the umbilical cord blood and already from the amniotic fluid.
Why all this interest in these cells?
The rare character of stem cells makes them useful in researching and understanding how diseases occur. This understanding can help us discover new treatments to treat conditions such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Stem cell research into treatment of stroke and heart disease is current, and the results so far are promising. It is believed that in the future, these cells may be alternation in a way to treat conditions such as kind I diabetes and arthritis.
These specialised cells can be grown in a laboratory, alternation in growth culture plates, harvested and then implanted into diseased organs in order to reverse a disease completely.
Advances in cell therapy have brought hope to many a soul, and will continue to do so in the years to come. It is consequently no surprise that stem cells therapy has become the talk of the town in the recent years!