|Stem cells are unique in a sense they are capable of developing and can give rise to almost all of the cells types of the body, such as muscle, nerve, heart, blood. Thus they hold great promise for both research and health care.
While every cell has genetic information, the egg cell derived from a female after fertilization with a sperm is capable of developing into an entire human being. When the fertilized egg cell divides the first few cells are capable of growing into any part of the body.
There are 220 different cell types found in the body of human beings. It is the biochemical signals that decide whether the stem cells are destined to become heart, brain or kidney. These ‘specialized’ cells with age and further multiplication loose this ability. Thus if captured at an early stage they can be manipulated in various ways to grow and form different types of tissues. A medical revolution can be created by manipulating the genes at this stage to correct diseases.
This research was conducted on early-stage embryos donated voluntarily by couples undergoing fertility treatment in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic or from non-living fetuses obtained from terminated first trimester pregnancies.
|Stem Cell – Future prospects
Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts, took a skin from Cow A, cloned it (by injecting the nucleus into a cow egg whose nucleus had been removed), then implanted the embryo in the uterus of Cow B. That embryo clone grew into a fetus, which, had it been born, would have been Cow C. But it was not born. The fetus was removed from the uterus and harvested for its tissues. These tissues from the clone were then put back into the original Cow A. It worked !!. These cells from the clone were not rejected by Cow A ! These cells organized themselves into functioning tissue such as kidney.
Its an amazing success.
By this technology the advocates of cloning research are promising great possibilities for incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Spinal-cord injuries and innumerable conditions which stand incurable today.
All this is causing a big concern among those who consider this as “Manipulating Humanity”. We do not know where all this would lead us to. That day may not be far when humans too would be treated the same way as the Cows and Dogs.
|Stem Cells turned into Blood Cells
Scientists for the first time have been able to form blood cells from human embryonic stem cells. This advancement eventually may offer safe and inexhaustible source of blood for transfusion and also new treatment for many blood diseases.
This was done by researchers at University of Wisconsin in Madison. They could manage to direct the immature cells to form every type of regular blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Because embryonic cells can be expanded without apparent limit the cell derived blood products could be created in virtually unlimited amounts.
There is growing excitement in the field of stem cells research. The stem cells have the potential of transforming into any kind of tissue in the body. This may eventually lead to new ways of treatment for host of diseases. In the case of blood cells they could be used to treat illnesses such as leukemia and anemia.
The benefit of this research is not going to be available in a very near future, but certainly a big step has be taken towards something which we could not think about in recent past. Theoretically the new technology may eventually eliminate the shortage of blood transfusion.
| Stem Cells as biological pacemakersJohns Hopkins University researchers have found the first evidence that genetically engineered heart cells derived from human embryonic stem cells might one day turn out to be a promising biological alternative to electronic pacemakers used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Human embryonic stem cells were genetically engineered by the researchers to make a green protein, grown in the lab and then encouraged to become heart cells. They then selected clusters of the cells that beat on their own accord, indicating the presence of pacemaking cells.
These clusters when implanted into hearts of guinea pigs, triggered regular beating of the heart itself.
These implanted cells also responded appropriately to drugs used to slow or speed the heart rate, which electronic pacemakers can’t do.
But many challenges remain before this technique could be used for patients.