In our world, diseases and disorders constantly plague the population. Some have modern-day medical treatments, but this remains a mystery for many other illnesses, mental or physical. Stem cells, which have been steadily increasing in popularity in the healthcare industry, take a stance in contributing to a solution for this issue.
So you might be wondering, what exactly are stem cells? They are unspecialized cells in the human body, split into various categories such as embryonic, fetal, and adult stem cells. There is a multitude of types of stem cells, but mentioning these three, for now, will give a relevant example of where stem cells are typically found. The most “effective” stem cell is the embryonic due to its fast growth rate and early stage prior to specialization. Embryonic stem cells usually come from fetuses (sometimes cloned exclusively for research purposes), fetal stem cells come from aborted fetuses, and adult stem cells are typically extracted from an adult’s bone marrow. Since embryonic stem cells are the most effective for researching and treatment purposes, they are commonly used in the medical realm of scientific studies. As previously mentioned, obtaining embryonic stem cells may require cloning procedures performed on a fetus solely for scientific purposes. However, the use of these techniques and the debate over abortion have been quite controversial over the coming years. Since the acquisition of stem cells is not currently universally accepted, there remains an ethical dilemma. Both sides have valid arguments and clear grounds on what they stand for, but this article’s content will not take a definitive stance on what ethics science should follow.
Now that we know what stem cells are, what exactly do they do, and how are they used for treatment and research? Since stem cells are unspecialized, they have the ability to rapidly differentiate into a particular cell of an organism for specific purposes. Not to mention, their rate of regeneration is very high and offers the capacity for self-renewal and repair in the human body. This property of stem cells allows stem cell transplantation to provide effective treatments in diseases such as Type-1 Diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, various types of heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. However, keep in mind that stem cell therapy does not serve as a definitive “cure” to a condition. Instead, it sets out preventive and protective measures to treat suffering patients due to its regenerative capabilities. Along with this, the application in healthcare extends to drug tests and studies of different diseases. First, cells are set up to acquire the traits of a specialized cell targeted by a specific drug in its trial phase. Then, researchers could determine whether or not the drug performs its intended purpose of counteracting the disease. By doing so, medical practitioners are able to identify the capability of a drug, screen any unintended side effects, and find more details regarding the specific disease being researched.
The use of stem cells has been ground-breaking in the scientific field, and it makes one wonder how stem cells could further impact modern-day medicine in the coming years. There is still so much left to learn and discover since scientists have just scratched the surface regarding the potential stem cell research holds in gathering treatments, defining the properties of diseases, and ultimately finding effective medicine. Clearly, the future for stem cell research and therapy sounds very promising. As advancements in science follow, stem cells will likely hold a profound position in developing new medicine, treatments, and studies.