Stem cells are cells of the body (somatic cells, undifferentiated biological cells) which can divide and become differentiated.
When an organism grows, stem cells specialize, and take specific functions. For instance, mature tissues like skin, muscle,blood, bone, liver, nerves, all have different types of cell. Because stem cells are not yet differentiated, they can change to become some kind of specialized cells. Organisms also use stem cells to replace damaged cells.
Stem cells are found in most, if not all, plants and animals. They divide and differentiate into a range of cell types. Research in the stem cell field grew out of findings in the 1960s.
The two broad types of mammalian stem cells are: embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells, which are found in adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all of the specialised embryonic tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing specialized cells, but also maintain the normal turnover of blood,skin, and intestinal tissues.
Stem cells can be grown in cell culture. In culture, they can be transformed into specialised cells, such as those of muscles or nerves. Highly plastic adult stem cells can be taken from a variety of sources, including umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. They are now used in medical therapies, and researchers expect that stem cells will be used in many future therapies.
Stem Cells Theraphy
Medical researchers believe that stem cell therapy has the potential to dramatically change the treatment of human disease. A number of adult stem cell therapies already exist, particularly bone marrow transplants that are used to treat leukemia. In the future, medical researchers anticipate being able to use technologies derived from stem cell research to treat a wider variety of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and muscle damage, amongst a number of other impairments and conditions.However, there still exists a great deal of social and scientific uncertainty surrounding stem cell research, which could possibly be overcome through public debate and future research, and further education of the public.
One concern of treatment is the risk that transplanted stem cells could form tumors and become cancerous if cell division continues uncontrollably.
Stem cells are widely studied, for their potential therapeutic use and for their inherent interest.
Supporters of embryonic stem cell research argue that such research should be pursued because the resultant treatments could have significant medical potential. It has been proposed that surplus embryos created for in vitro fertilization could be donated with consent and used for the research.
The recent development of iPS cells has been called a bypass of the legal controversy. Laws limiting the destruction of human embryos have been credited for being the reason for development of iPS cells, but it is still not completely clear whether hiPS cells are equivalent to hES cells. Recent work demonstrates hotspots of aberrant epigenomic reprogramming in hiPS cells.
Stem cell treatments may require immuno-suppression because of a requirement for radiation before the transplant to remove the patient’s previous cells, or because the patient’s immune system may target the stem cells. One approach to avoid the second possibility is to use cells from the same patient that is being treated.
Pluripotency in certain stem cells could also make it difficult to obtain a specific cell type. It is also difficult to obtain the exact cell type needed, because not all cells in a population differentiate uniformly. Undifferentiated cells can create tissues other than desired types.
Some stem cells form tumors after transplantation; pluripotency is linked to tumor formation especially in embryonic stem cells, fetal proper stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells. Fetal proper stem cells form tumors despite multipotency.
Hepatotoxicity and drug-induced liver injury account for a substantial number of failures of new drugs in development and market withdrawal, highlighting the need for screening assays such as stem cell-derived hepatocyte-like cells, that are capable of detecting toxicity early in the drug development process.
Courtesy : Wikipedia, EuroStemCell (YouTube)
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