The concept of a future where “miracle cures” exist and our bodies heal themselves is a fascinating and exciting one. Today, we are one step closer to that future becoming a reality, thanks to the research that scientists are doing into stem cell therapy.
But amongst all that exciting research are controversies and questions into the ethics of stem cell therapy. So, what is stem cell therapy and what’s all the fuss about? Have a look below to learn more.
What stem cell therapy is
A stem cell is a cell that can develop and grow into many different types of cells. They act as the body’s raw materials, and have the ability to renew themselves by dividing, even if they’ve been inactive for a long time.
There are many different types of cells that our bodies use to function. But rather than producing every type of cell fully formed, it instead produces stem cells that can morph into many different types of cells that have a wide variety of functions.
Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, can be used to help repair damaged tissue by using stem cells or their derivatives. Scientists grow stem cells in a lab and manipulate them into different types of cells such as blood cells, nerve cells, and cardiac muscle cells.
Once manipulated, these specially designed cells can then be implanted into a person and used to repair a tissue or an organ that is diseased or injured.
Why stem cell therapy is relevant
Stem cell therapy has enormous potential to transform medicine. In theory, there is no limit to the types of diseases that can be treated with stem cell therapy.
It has the potential to increase our understanding of how diseases occur, and it presents new ways for researchers to test new drugs for safety and effectiveness. It also has the potential to completely eliminate the need for organ donors, because stem cells can be grown to become new tissue for transplant use.
Currently, researchers are looking into ways stem cell therapy could one day help those with spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and burn victims. Research is ongoing, but scientists have already shown that adult bone marrow cells transformed to become heart-like cells can repair heart tissue in people.
The current state of stem cell therapy
Over the last several years, stem cell therapy centers have become fairly common and can be found nationwide. But people interested in stem cell therapy treatments can’t go a healthcare center in Baltimore, MD for example, or another medical center located elsewhere, that doesn’t specialize in stem cell therapy treatment and expect to have it available though.
Only specialized treatment centers offer stem cell therapy. According to the experts at NAD Stem Cell, a Westchester-area clinic, ideal candidates for stem cell therapy include people who suffer from joint pain, knee pain, back pain, and arthritis.
The controversy surrounding stem cell research began in the late 1990s when the public became aware of scientists using human stem cells from embryos for research. This created an issue, because withdrawing the stem requires destroying the embryo.
There are many complicated issues that surround destroying an embryo, because people have different beliefs and ideas about when human life begins. In 2006, much of the controversy surrounding embryos and stem cells diminished when scientists began using pluripotent stem cells instead of embryos for research.
As a result of this and other new advances in stem cell technology, public attitude toward stem cell research is slowly beginning to change.