The term stem cells is a popular and widely used topic widely discussed and published in scientific magazines, television, internet and radio in the recent years. Let us try and understand what these stem cells are and how relevant are they in our daily life and wellbeing.
Stem cell therapy is an effective treatment procedure which can eradicate the deadly disease in the universe. But there are many complications connected to it. Since it needs samples from the umbilical cord that connects mother and baby, the study too becomes really complicated. It is a sensitive issue and has not been accepted by many mothers. Even the family members of the lady who expects a baby is ready for contributing in stem cell therapy. This probably is the main issue face by the medical science in developing the stem cell therapy treatment through the research.
What is a cell?
A cell is a very basic structural and functional unit of life. Cells in the human body have many different functions. They ‘stem’ from simpler cells known as stem cells. A stem cell is basically a cell that does not yet have a specific job in the body. Stem cells are different from other cells as they are unspecialised and renew themselves by the process of dividing. The stem cell divides and forms a more specific cell like the heart cell or nerve cell. Stem cells are important for human beings for many reasons like in the development of the embryo thirty cells divide into hundreds of specialised cells that help in the growth in adult life. As the foetus in the womb develops many stem cells develop to give rise to replacement cells which may be destroyed in injury, old age or by some disease.
What is the current stem cell research?
Current stem cell research teaches the importance of stem cells that may go wrong or develop diseases. Researchers are trying to find out how healthy cells can replace diseased and damaged cells. There have been several medical therapies which are investigating the cause of diseases like cancer caused in the division of the stem cell into a specialised cell. If researchers succeed on finding the reason why and how cells become cancerous, they will also be able to find ways and means to prevent this process and invent drugs to treat these diseases.
What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is a modern technique with an objective to replace cells damaged or destroyed by disease with healthy cells. This techniques adopted for treatment of diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, eye ailments and diabetes
Kinds of stem cell therapy
The transplantation of adult stem cells is among the most commonly practiced kind of stem cell therapy which is used to treat different kinds of blood disorder and cancers.
Bone marrow transplant is used to create healthy cells to replace damaged and diseased cells. The cells are harvested I n the bone marrow of the donor and then replaced in place of the damaged cells of the patient. A similar transplant is also done peripheral blood stem cell in which the cells are harvested in the blood stream followed by a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.
Umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant is another kind of therapy. The cells of the donor in this type of therapy are derived from the umbilical cord of a new born baby. In this case the chances of rejection by the body are very low. These cells are not mature enough to have distinct features, hence the body cannot identify as a total foreign body. Researchers have found this beneficial for treatment of many diseases like cardiac and neurological disorders. Recently the umbilical cord is preserved in blood banks for use by therapists.
Benefits of current stem cell therapy
Even though stem cell therapy is still in experimental stage but medical practitioners are working on new methods that can be beneficial for the treatment of several diseases. Besides cancer patients even burn patients are treated with stem cell therapy which allows the new cells to be grafted in place of old damaged cells. Diseases of the eye have been treated by stem cell therapy by healthy new cells replacing the damaged tissues.
Challenges of stem cell therapy
During the procedure of stem cell therapy it becomes difficult to identify stem cells within an actual tissue culture as the culture contains many different cells. When identified, these stem cells have to be isolated from the tissues and solutions found to make these cells develop into the cell types that are wanted for the treatment of a particular disease.
Next step after identifying, isolating and growing the new cells the problem arises in the implantation of these cells alongside with the person’s own tissues in an effective manner egg if a heart cell is implanted it must beat to the exact rhythm of the person’s original heart cells. The immune system of the person can also recognise the cells as a foreign body and reject the new cells.
Current issues on stem cell therapy
The potentiality of stem cell therapy to give relief to patients suffering with incurable diseases has motivated the scientists to find other ways to enhance the latest stem therapy and grow more new cells. Stem cell therapy has the potentiality to create tissues. Researchers are confident in their continued research on the stem cells that can improve and save some lives.
Another challenge faced by researchers is to use hybrid stem cells which are genes important for the stem cell development. So far embryonic stem cells are attained from discarded embryos left from fertilisation procedures. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to form any specialised stem cell, which other stem cells though important do not possess this quality. Unlimited supplies of embryonic stem cells is possible by taking the nucleus from an animal egg and then usethe nucleus from a cell in an adult human. This would ask for extraction of stem cells from the adult who donated the cells to avoid rejection of the cells. This is a difficult process but if it works it will add benefit to the therapy.
An ethical dilemma
Stem cell therapy is an advanced science that can treat deadly diseases. But, using the embryonic stem cells in the research and development is an issue for debate. Even the researchers face the ethical dilemma in this relation. Since every human has the obligation to respect the value of human life but at the same time they also have duty to ease sufferings of mankind. During this process, the early embryo needs to be destroyed. Thus, this violates the respect to human live.
Argument for stem cells research therapy view
Thousands of babies are born every second and also same number or more is aborted. Thus, this gives rise to wastage of embryo which can be used in stem cells therapy. Killing the embryo means killing a human being which is ethically incorrect. Every embryo means a single person and becomes a citizen after they grow up. Respecting each of the embryos becomes an important consideration.
Cut off point after 14 days
Generally 14 days is the cut of period after which the embryo cannot be divided for getting twins. But before this period embryo can be used to generate twins. The stem cell therapy is not so developed such that people can know on which split the therapy will be effective. Some group of people says that embryo has no moral status. These embryos are just a portion of each mother unless and until it is developed to a human being. But, the people who suffers from various deadly diseases can be saved with this underdeveloped embryo.
Conclusion – Several researchers are working stem cell research around the world. They are experimenting on animals for treatment of premature ovarian failure. The latest umbilical transplant therapy is also been experiment for treatment of various diseases. It will take a few more years to get beneficial treatment for diseases like cancer, diabetes, eye ailments and some cardiac problems by stem cell therapy.