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Stem Cells Research

Research about aging and health related issues


Archive for May, 2009

Stem cell research has gained a lot of momentum in the past few years-due to the potential and controversies surrounding it! A lot of scientists and researchers claim that stem cells can help in curing grave diseases like type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer?s disease, multiple sclerosis, as well as spinal cord injuries where as other argue about the ethics of producing them. The debate is still continues but we have to reach a standpoint somewhere, and look at the positive side than harp about the negatives!

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells present in an organism which have the potential to develop into specialized organs or tissues. The stem cells divide through mitotic division and after division, they can either remain as a stem cell or grow into another type of cell, having specialized functions such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

Stem Cells are of two types- embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos or the inner mass of the blastocyst and are pluripotent- meaning that they are able to divide into any type of specialized cell whereas the adult stem cells are found among the differentiated tissues or organs and have the potential to yield the same type of cells of a specialized tissue or organ. They also have the capacity to renew or repair any damage to the tissue or organ.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the stem cells. The stem cells have the ability to grow into specialized types of organs- which means that they can be used for organ transplants because they can be grown to yield specific types of organs. Moreover it has been found out that stem cells can be used for curing diseases like cancer, Alzheimer?s disease, Parkinson?s disease, multiple sclerosis, and so on. So, one can see the tremendous potential which these cells have!

However, the advocators of human life despise or do not support this research because the extraction of embryonic stem cell requires the destruction of embryos- which means the end of a human life! Hence, the opposers of stem cell research do not regard it as ethical. President Bush has also strongly rejected the research on embryonic stem cells because he feels that this research in fact, destroys a human embryo! Funds devoted to stem cell research are being taken away due to strong oppositions by various ethical communities.

Even though stem cell research holds a lot of potential, yet it is being criticized on moral and ethical grounds. In the mean while we can just sit back and hope that people realize the immense value of this research and start advocating it!

If you or any of your relative is suffering from deadly diseases such as Parkinson?s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer?s or any other, then these small cells-could be a matter of life and death for you! It has been shown that the stem cells are capable of differentiating into specialized cells or organs of the body as well renewing or repairing any damage which has occurred in the tissues or organs of the body! Hence, you can see for yourself that these stem cells have a life-saving potential.

Stem cells are of two types and both of them have enormous potential in their own. These are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are derived from the blastocyst or the inner mass of the embryos, after fertilization has occurred whereas the adult stem cells are already present within the specialized tissues/organs, and multiply by mitotic division for replenishing dying cells and regenerating damaged tissues. Adult stem cells have been found to have a much longer track record in treatments, in comparison to the embryonic stem cells and are not controversial as they do not result in the destruction of embryos.

Stem cells are derived from blastocyst and can give rise to specialized cells in the body- for example, a blank cell can become a specialized cell if it attaches to the blood stream or if you have an injury in your spinal cord, then it can become a nerve, cartilage or motor cell. So, a stem cell can take any shape or form, depending on the requirements of the body. Hence, they are of immense importance in carrying organ transplants or treating deadly diseases such as cancer, Parkinson?s or Alzheimer?s.

Generally, if an organ transplant is required for a person, then it is very difficult to obtain a fresh piece of organ. But if the stem cells are controlled and manipulated properly, then they will grow into a specialized organ and will serve as a potential supply for organ transplant. Moreover, as these cells are able to renew or repair the damaged tissues, so can be used for replacing the cells lost in injuries or accidents. For example in Parkinson?s disease, the brain cells are lost or damaged, and hence a person is not able to co-ordinate his/her muscle movements and looses memory. But if you can add new cells in place of the dead ones, then the person will be able to live normally. So, think of the potential that this small cell has!

Hence, stem cell research can really affect everybody?s life. If you support this research, then you may be able to save your friend or relative from having an untimely death!

Embryonic stem cell research has gained a huge momentum these days because of its? potential to cure deadly diseases like Alzheimer?s, Parkinson, type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injuries, stroke, bone diseases, multiple sclerosis, cancer and much more! However many people argue that the embryonic stem cell research is not ethical and therefore, should be stopped. Even though this debate continues to grow, we simply cannot undermine the immense potential which this research holds!

Let me tell, you something about Embryonic stem cells. Basically, embryonic stem cells are stem cells that have been derived from the inner cell mass of an early stage embryo, also known as blastocyst, which forms after 4-5 days post fertilization. These cells are considered special because they have the ability to differentiate into organized tissue, organs or cells of the body. This means that the embryonic stem cells have the capability to give rise to different organs or tissues of an organism such as liver, brain, kidney etc.

Since these cells are plutripotent, so they can be used to replace or treat a malfunctioning or dying organism. Apart from treating deadly diseases, embryonic stem cells are also being used for understanding the process of aging and helping the scientists to find out about the enzymes involved in the process of aging. By blocking these enzymes, we can certainly slower the phenomenon of aging.
The stem cells and umbilical cord cells have also been used for treating leukemia and lymphoma patients. So, you can see that stem cells have a lot of potential in making the world free of diseases!

However, the opponents do not favor this research on ethical grounds. It is because the embryonic stem cells are taken or derived from early stage embryos- which is regarded as the death of life! The pro-life and religious groups say that an embryo represents human life and if the embryonic stem cells are taken out, then it is equivalent to murdering a human life. The religious groups also point out that many fetuses and embryos are being aborted because of this on-going research. Currently, there are several sources of embryos, including unwanted embryos and fertility clinics- which have hundreds of frozen embryos. It has been said that it is against the ethical laws to kill any innocent human being intentionally- even if it benefits the entire human community!

Well, these are some of the points in favor of and against the stem cell research Stem cell research is really beneficial and it is important that we focus on the benefits rather than considering the negatives!

Before going further into the article, let me give you some information about stem cells. Stem cells are found in all multi-cellular organisms and are categorized as undifferentiated cells-meaning that they have the potential to develop into various specialized cells in the body during early development of an organism. Stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into specialized cells/organs such as kidney, liver, lungs, heart etc- and hence are of primary importance to human beings.

Stem cells have two special properties- firstly; they are unspecialized cells, having the ability to renew themselves through cell division and secondly, under certain experimental conditions they can be induced to become tissue or organ specific cells with specialized functions. Stem cells are basically of two types- embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are derived from the early morula stage embryos or the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. On the other hand, the adult stem cells are undifferentiated stem cells that are found among differentiated tissues/organs and multiply be cell division to repair/renew the tissues in which they are

Adult Stem cells are found in various organs such as brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, heart, gut, skin, teeth, skeletal muscle, liver etc. The research on adult stem cells has aggravated lots of excitement and debate amongst the scientists all over the world. Scientists have found out that lots of adult stem cells are present in structured tissues and organs- which is an indication of the fact that these cells can be used for transplants or can be induced to grow into specialized cells. However, one of the major drawbacks in using adult stem cells is that they are often restricted to certain types of lineages-meaning that the adult stem cell of a particular lineage will not be able to divide into different type of lineage!

In spite of the above drawback, the adult stem cells have been used for several years for successfully treating leukemia and related bone/blood cancers. The use of adult stem cells has not been considered controversial so far because unlike the embryonic stem cells (which are derived from the embryo), they are derived form the adult organs-and it does not require the destruction of the embryo.

The first successful example of using adult stem cells for transplant was carried by Paolo Macchiarini, at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, on a Columbian adult female whose trachea had been distorted due to tuberculosis. The entire procedure of carrying out the transplant occurred normally and the tissue exhibited no signs of rejection, even after months of transplant.

Adult stem cells are very valuable and a lot of research is still going on to find out the other applications or uses of these cells. Adult stem cells have numerous potential and if the information is decoded wisely, then soon we will have a world free of diseases!

In biology the genome of the organism is the whole hereditary information of an organism that is encoded in the DNA or of some RNA viruses. You must note that this include both the gene and the non-coding sequence. In other words one can say that the genome is the complete description of the DNA sequence. It is the Genome which really defines the DNA sequence.

With the admission of the bio technology I must say that the whole concepts in the medicinal world are really changing. This is just like the invention of the atomic number. You must remember how the domination of the atomic mass was over shadowed by the atomic number.

The genome is also quiet similar to it. I must really feel that the genome is one of the most important aspects ever since the biotechnology has been introduced. You must have heard about the human genome project.

I would definitely like to add the human genome project in the conversation. I do feel that you too must be feeling very eager to know about the human genome project. This project started in the year 1990 under the custody of James D. Watson. The main target was to really get the detail of the DNA sequence of the human body. But at first the experiments was carried on animals like fruit fly and the laboratory mouse.

Many experiments were carried out and many genomes or the gene sequence were registered. Ever since the time the genome project has started the genome project team has really come up with some of the great results and this has revolutionized the field of biotechnology.

It is being attempted to find out the proper gene sequence of the human being and what gene sequence from the particular organ. There is really an attempt to develop those gene sequences in the laboratory.

Almost all the goals of the human genome projects have really been fulfilled and I must say that the projects have finished much before the projected time. You should know that at first the project members really decided to find the sequence of the 95 % of the DNA in the human body. I must say that not only they were able to finish the project in less time but you should also note that they were able to find the sequence of almost 99 % of the gene sequence. This was really something which was really not thought of.

No body really had an idea that the genome project team will come up with such a great results. But it really happened and we are really on the verge to make a human clone quiet soon and I do feel that this will be a tremendous achievement in the field of medical science.

Mesochymal stem cells are the multi potent stem cells that can be differentiated into variety of cell types. The cell types into which the MSC has been differentiated are as follows: osteoblast, chondrocytes, myocytes, adipocytes, and as described lately as beta pancreatic islets cells. However in the vivo results are now thought of as the misinterpretation of the spontaneous cell fusion between the damaged neuron a mesochymal cell present in the brain.

While the terms Mesenchymal Stem Cell and Marrow Stromal Cell have been used interchangeably, neither term is sufficiently descriptive as discussed below:

  1. Mesenchyme is embryonic connective tissue that is derived from the mesoderm and that differentiates into hematopoietic and connective tissue, whereas MSCs do not differentiate into hematopoietic cells.
  2. Stromal cells are connective tissue cells that form the supportive structure in which the functional cells of the tissue reside. While this is an accurate description for one function of MSCs, the term fails to convey the relatively recently-discovered roles of MSCs in repair of tissue.
  3. Because the cells, called MSCs by many labs today, can encompass multi potent cells derived from other non-marrow tissues, such as adult muscle or the dental pulp of deciduous baby teeth, yet do not have the capacity to reconstitute an entire organ, the term Multi potent Stromal Cell has been proposed as a better replacement.

The scientists first described the clonal nature of the marrow cells in the year 1960. Subsequent experimentation revealed the
plasticity of marrow cells and how their fate could be determined by environmental cues. Culturing marrow cells in the presence of the osteogenic stimuli such as ascorbic acid, inorganic phosphate, dexamethasone can promote the differentiation into osteoblast.

There are many characteristic of the mesenchymal cells. Some of them are as follows:

1. Morphology
Mesenchymal cells are really characterized morphologically by a small cell body with a few cell processes that are long and
thin. As far as the cell structure is concerned I must say that the cell contains large round nucleus with which is surrounded by the chromatin particles giving it a clear appearance. The remaining part of the cell contains the mitochondria, Golgi body, rough endoplastic reticulam. The cells are long and thin and are widely dispersed.

2. Detection
There is no test available for finding the MSC on a single cell. The MSC really cannot be detected up till now.

However I really feel that the mesenchymal cells are quiet important for the human body and if you will not have it in the right quantity then I must tell
you that you will definitely find yourself really caught by some disease or the other sooner or later.