Summary of Stem Cell Treatments
- Stem cells are the root cells from which all of the body's other cells come from. All of the body's organ and functions begin with stem cells. By studying stem cells, researchers hope to learn more about diseases and why they occur. Once more data is collected, physicians then hope to use stem cells to fix or regenerate tissues that have been damaged by disease. Also, the manufacturers of medicine hope to use stem cells to test the safety of new drugs before using them on people. However, embryonic stem cells are much more easily manipulated for research than adult stem cells. Researchers hope to harvest these cells from unwanted fertilized eggs, which lead to a controversy over the ethics of this method.
- Stem cell therapy aims to use both adult and embryonic stem cells to replace other cells that have been damaged or injured by disease using a similar theory to organ transplantation. These new stem cells are grown in a lab and manipulated to take on the function of specific cells depending on what needs to be replaced. Sometimes genetic material from the person needing the transplant will be injected into the cells in order to make them compatible for the new body. Once the cells are ready, they are implanted into the person. For example, if a person is suffering from lung disease, the new lung cells will be implanted directly into the lungs. The new cells will then stimulate the body to repair the injured or defective lung cells.
- Stem cells transplants have actually been utilized in the United States since the 1960s. Bone marrow transplants are common, but they use adult stem cells, so there is no controversy surrounding that therapy. Other therapies using adult stem cells are used to treat degenerative diseases and stem cells taken from the blood of the umbilical cord are used to treat some genetic diseases. Currently, there are no therapies being performed using embryonic stem cells. However, researchers are beginning to discover that adult stem cells are can be manipulated more than once thought, making research easier in this new field that yields a lot of promise for people with once incurable diseases.