A stem cell is essentially a “blank” cell, capable of becoming another more differentiated cell type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell.
Microscopic in size, stem cells are big news in medical and science circles because they can be used to replace or even heal damaged tissues and cells in the body. They can serve as a built-in repair system for the human body, replenishing other cells as long as a person is still alive.
Adult stem cells are a “natural” solution. They naturally exist in our bodies, and they provide a natural repair mechanism for many tissues of our bodies. They belong in the microenvironment of an adult body, while embryonic stem ...view middle of the document...
To accomplish the beneficial effects, neither neural differentiation nor long-lasting persistence of the grafted human stem cells appears to be required. The secretion of neurite outgrowth-promoting factors in vitro further suggests a paracrine function of unrestricted somatic stem cells in spinal cord injury.
Given the highly supportive functional characteristic in spinal cord injury, production in virtually unlimited quantities at GMP grade and lack of ethical concerns, unrestricted somatic stemm cell appear to be a highly suitable human stem cell source for clinical application in central nervous system injuries.
How Stem Cell works
Stem cells are the source of all cells - brain, skin, heart and others - that make up the human body. Just like a plant stem that branches into leaves and flowers, stem cells branch out to form different bits of our bodies.
There are two basic types:
· Adult stem cells act as a pool from which the body can repopulate itself with cells when old ones die out. When a skin stem cell divides, it forms a skin cell and another skin stem cell. The latter is retained as a future source of skin cells; the former migrates to the body's surface and takes its place among other skin cells.
· Embryonic stem cells are created in the first two weeks of life and are the source of all cells that make the growing foetus.
Although scientists acknowledge they have much to learn about stem cells, they already see ways to exploit them, for example in setting up stem cell banks to provide transplant materials for patients.
Several thousand lines of embryonic stem cells could be created to establish such a bank, each originating from an excess embryo created when a woman undergoes IVF treatment. These cells will be grown and kept in culture dishes. Patients would be given stem cells matched as closely as possible to their immunological make-up. For a diabetic, they would be injected into the pancreas where, coaxed by drugs, they would be transformed into insulin-making cells.
Immunosuppressant drugs may still be required when transplanting embryonic stem cells, and doctors are planning improvements. One method is to isolate an individual's own adult stem cells - say their dopamine stem cells - and grow them in laboratories. These would be re-injected, in this case into a Parkinson's patient's brain, where they should restore their lost dopamine production.
Ultimately, scientists hope to take a skin cell and transform it into a brain cell that could be grown and re-injected into a patient's brain - a technique that would simplify cell isolation and avoid problems of rejection. Scientists insist that this means using embryos as sources of stem cells.
Throughout the past century, doctors and scientists have been trying to find a cure for the common, yet deadly diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS. When first released in the 1800’s, microscopes interested the curious minds of the...