What if one could find the cure to various diseases the world if fighting today? What if we could use our knowledge to create technology that would change the way we see life? Well, stem cells can revolutionize the medical world and help give us a better way of living. Stem cells can save many lives and cure the pain that kills them. However, stem cell research poses a lot of controversy for ethical and political issues.
An embryonic stem cell is a pluripotent cell, which can have the potential of becoming any cell in the body. Stem cells are unique — no other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types. Although there are three different types of stem cells, the other two being multipotent and totipotent, only pluripotent stem cells can become any types of cell in the body. These cells could help create new organs, cells, and cure diseases in the donor if harvested under the right conditions to develop into mature or differentiated cells. Stem cells are usually found in embryo’s that are at a very early stage of development (blastocyst) and they are mostly found in bone marrow. For the first time, in 1998, scientists were able to successfully grow a stem cell under laboratory conditions and research on the topic has continued ever since. Stem cells if controlled and used to the persons need could provide new cells to replace the one’s that are damaged or missing for example in diseases like Parkinson’s. If doctors find a way of curing such diseases they will be more likely to understand stem cells better and use them in different ways.
Getting a stem cell line is quite difficult and complicated. There are a few methods of getting stem cells but I will be focusing more on the creation of stem cell line from therapeutic cloning. This method is quite complex compared to creation from an embryo because it takes a much longer process. First of all an egg and the nucleus of a blood cell are required. You extract the nucleus of the egg, which contains all it’s DNA, using a very thin needle and electrically fuse the nucleus of the blood cell with the enucleated egg. Once this is done, the pre-embryo will begin to divide and form stem cells, however this embryo will not be placed in a woman’s womb to form a pregnancy. Because the embryonic cells have not developed/differentiated yet they are still stem cells. Sadly this method can only supply stem cells to its specific donor. If therapeutic cloning using embryos is successful, then perfectly matched, replacement organs could become freely available to sick and dying people. Compared to other methods, it has its disadvantages because with the other’s you can use the stem cells on anyone and therapeutic cloning takes a long time to execute correctly. One example is Dolly. It took over a hundred times to clone that one sheep and ethical controversies would get in the way of killing over one hundred humans. Over the past few years there have been a number of people who believed they found a new and improved way of getting stem cells without having to kill embryo’s but if that were the case they would have succeeded and we wouldn’t still be facing the issue. So even though people have found ways of creating stem cells issue mainly like religion and politics are interfering with the level of research allowed.
Figure 1: Differentiation of pluripotent stem cells There are many advantages to using stem cells. For one, if successfully generated, stem cells can be used to cure diseases. It can cure Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, spinal cord injuries, diabetes and many more. All of these diseases either have a lack of or damaged cells and the exact purpose of stem cells is to replace them. The research will also help give us a better understanding of human growth and cell development. The research can advance the medical world in ways where people wouldn’t have to loose