Over the years, scientists have made substantial efforts and dedicated resources to finding out how the body can heal itself. Significant resources have been poured into stem cell research, however, some of its concepts remain a controversy among many people. So, what is stem cell therapy and what does it involve? Jason Guck, a health and fitness enthusiast, interviews Dr. Heather Rocks, an orthopedic surgeon on the complex world of stem cell research. Mr. Guck is a supporter and advocate for stem cell therapy and research, believing that there are insurmountable benefits and problems that stem cell therapy will help solve. Here’s a breakdown on this.
What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy uses stem cells to repair diseased, injured, or dysfunctional tissue in the body. Most cells in the body are already differentiated, to mean that they serve a specific function. Dr. Rocks gives an example, red blood cells serve the function of supplying oxygen to the body through the blood.
Stem cells are cells that are not differentiated; they do not have any particular function in the body. This means that they are capable of serving different functions in numerous parts of the body. They can also make unlimited copies of themselves, unlike other cells, which only make a definite number of copies.
There are various types of stem cells used for different functions but the ones that are commonly used are the embryonic and adult stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos that are between three to five days old. They are cells that are harvested in a laboratory through a process called in-vitro fertilization. Embryonic cells are pluripotent which means that produce any other type of cell inside the human body.
Adult stem cells
Adult cells are cells that are generated from organs and tissues in the body that already have a particular function. They are mostly used for the repair and replacement of damaged cells for that specific organ. However, they are not able to divide themselves into as many numbers as compared to the embryonic cells.
Stem cell transplants, also referred to as bone marrow transplants are well grounded treatments for bone marrow failures and blood cancers. The umbilical cord also contains stems that can be in the transplants of these diseases. Scientists are making efforts to finding new ways which stem cell therapy can be used as treatment for a host of other diseases. They are pursuing the concept of inserting new cells to a specific tissue so that they can divide themselves and form new ones or repair a particular tissue.
What are the concerns regarding stem cell treatments?
Jason Guck seeks clarification from Dr. Rocks on the controversy and ethical concerns surrounding stem cell research. She explains that adult stem cells do not present any ethical concerns when it comes to stem cell therapy. However, there is a lot of differing opinions and controversy regarding the use embryonic stem cells. During the process of harvesting the stem cells from the embryonic system, the embryo is destroyed. This raises concern for people who believe that destroying of a fertilized egg is ethically wrong. This is because they believe that the embryo should have the same rights as any other human being and therefore should be treated as such and have their rights protected. On the other hand, supporters of stem cell therapy believe that embryos are not yet humans. The scientists receive consent from the egg and sperm donor to create the embryo that will be used for the research.
Recently, scientists have discovered how to turn adult stem cells into pluripotent cells. This is a process that involves reprogramming adult stem cells to embody embryo- like behaviors. The adult cells then become induced pluripotent stem cells that can differentiate into any tissue and can have specialized function in any part of the body. Hopefully, this breakthrough will help ease the concerns of those who oppose the use of the human embryo for research.
Stem cell research is gradually advancing with more scientists learning how a cell grows into a fully functioning organism and how it can replace or repair damaged cells. There is still a long way to go, but a lot of head way is being made to ensure that the whole process is safe and effective. Mr. Guck believes that this will go a long way in finding solutions to some of humanity’s most complex health related problems.
For more information, visit https://jasonguck.com/.