There is really no way you have not heard about stem cells. There are numerous debates surrounding this subject, stem cells being believed to be able to cure many types of serious conditions. In case you wonder what stem cells are and how they can work to help patients overcome the diseases they may be suffering from, here you will find a list of the most frequently asked questions on stem cells and all the right answers.
1. What are stem cells?
This probably is the most common question regarding this subject. Stem cells are the cells that help creating new cells in healthy tissues. They also have the ability to repair tissues that have been injured or damaged. There are some characteristics that help distinguishing stem cells from all other types of cells. One of the most important such characteristic is the ability to self-renew. Stem cells have the ability to divide for a long period of time, being also able to differentiate into specialized cells with distinct functions.
2. What types of stem cells exist?
There are two main types of stem cells that are known to exist. They are adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. They can be obtained from living human tissue, from human embryos, as well as in the laboratory.
3. What is the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells?
As already mentioned there are two main types of stem cells. The stem cells that some organs contain are known as adult stem cells. They persist throughout the entire life of an individual and have an important role in repairing tissue. However, their capacity is limited, and naturally not all organs include stem cells. On the other hand, embryonic stem cells have the ability to divide almost indefinitely, being the most important source of stem cells for research, as well as for therapy.
4. What are the uses of stem cells?
Nowadays, specialists believe that stem cells have the ability to cure or help the treatment of a series of conditions. Stem cells can also offer the possibility to replace damaged cells and consequently treat a wide variety of diseases, such as diabetes, neurological conditions, but also cardiovascular disease and even cancer related conditions.
5. Why is stem cell research a controversial subject?
Stem cell research has always been a controversial subject. This occurs mostly because research commonly uses embryonic stem cells. The only way known to derive embryonic stem cells supposes the destruction of um-implanted blastocyst-stage embryo at the 6th or 8th day of development. Human embryonic stem cells are extracted from human embryos. This is believed to be unmoral by some people. The ethics of stem cell research will surely continue to be a debated subject, even though its importance cannot be denied.
6. Have embryonic stem cells been used in treatments for humans?
Even though the role that embryonic stem cells can play in the treatment of a wide range of conditions has been widely debated for years, these stem cells have not yet been used in real treatments for humans. Regulatory restrictions that exist in some countries today have slowed down the progress on this manner. Still, research indicates that new discoveries can lead to the cure of some serious diseases.
7. When will stem cells be used in treatments?
Adult stem cells already are used in the treatments of various conditions. In fact, this therapy has become common in clinical use more than 40 years ago. Bone marrow transplants, in which adult stem cells are used, are commonly helpful in the treatment of leukemia, as well as blood disorders and lymphoma, managing to save many lives, each year.
Researches hope that stem cells treatments will lead, in the future, to the cure of a wide range of diseases, including traumatic injuries, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, spinal cord injury and even cancer. If the administration of such therapies will show results, millions of lives can be saved.