Stemcells are the building blocks of every tissue and organ making up our body.These phenomenal cells originally formed in the blastocyst, an early form offertilization and growth of a foetus.
The inner cell mass of the blastocyst ismade up of stem cells, highly specialized cells dedicated to replacing damagedor dead cells such as skin cells and can develop to become something ascomplicated as a neuron (brain cells). We rely on stem cells our entire livesto heal our bodies, for example, when you get a severe burn, stem cells come forthand develop into epithelial cells to heal the burn. Stem cells have two mainproperties that make them so special 1. The ability to self-replicate, orproduce an exact copy of hem selves through cell division 2. The ability tobecome any cell that is needed, or the ability to differentiate and becomeThetwo main stem cells are embryonic stem cells and somatic stem cell. Embryonicstem cells are retracted from the blastocyst which is an early development ofthe foetus. Somatic stem cells are stem cells that are found inside the developedbody. Bone marrow tends to have the highest concentration of stem cells becausethat is where red blood cells are produced.
There are three sub categories ofstem cells 1. Totipotent stem cells 2. Pluripotent stem cells and 3.Multipotent stem cells. The fertilized egg and the cells that divide from a itare “Totipotent” because under the correct conditions they can develop into aviable blastocyst which is where we would farm embryonic stem cells from.Pluripotent cells are taken from the blastocyst. They are so valuable becausethey have the potential to become every cell type found in the body and underthe right conditions they can last extended periods of time in a lab so theycan be researched and hopefully in the future be widely available for anyonethat needs them.
Multipotent stem cells are carried in almost every organ inyour body, although the highest concentration of them is inside your bonemarrow. Multipotent stem cells have the ability to replace the certain cells inwhich ever tissue they are found in. for example, the brain has three types ofcells, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes,and microglial cells, sostem cells in the brain have the ability to differentiate into one of thosethree cells, but once they do, they can neither self-replicate or change cell type.Stem cellsare already used to treat some medical issues, such as severe burns andleukaemia. Un-differentiated stem cells can be taken from the umbilical cordafter birth, posing no harm to the mother or the child.
When the cord blood iscombined with agarose and fibrin it results in a fast growing epithelialtissue. Once the tissue is made it can be stored and kept for long periods oftime in a bank. If someone were to come to the hospital with a severe burn, thetissue could be put to use right away, saving the victim extreme pain and time.Prior to this discovery, the quickest way to treat a burn was through a skingraft, in which skin is taken from another part of the body (usually the thigh)and placed over the burn to speed up the healing process. Skin grafts takeweeks to heal and are very painful, while the stem cell approach can replaceskin in as little as a week.
Another skin treatment using skin cells is “sprayon skin”. Healthy skin is taken from an unburnt part of the body, the stemcells are separated from the skin and grown, within 90 minutes millions of stemcells are placed in a “gun” and applied to the burn. People with severe hotwater and electrical burns have been dismissed from the hospital within a week,after using the miracle skin. Stem cells are also used to treat leukaemia. Inpatients with leukaemia, undeveloped white blood cells start attacking orhinder the process of mature blood cells, this is very dangerous since thewhite blood cells are a vital part of the immune system and without them thebody is defence-less and vulnerable to disease. But with the help of stemcells, the leukemic cells.
Chemotography is the most effective way to kill theleukemic cells, but it also damages the entirety of the bone marrow, making theformation of new blood cells very difficult, which is where haematopoieticstem cell transplants come into play. HSCT take bone marrow from a donor, normallyfrom a relative or someone matching the patient’s tissue type, or else thepatient’s immune system could reject the treatment. Once the somatic stem cellsare gathered from healthy bone marrow, they can be introduced into thepatient’s immune system and completely replace all of the bone marrow,effectively curing the leukaemia.One of the biggest hold backs of stemcell use, is the ethical issues it imposes.
For example, to harvest pluripotentstem cells we would need to extract them from the blastocyst, which is an earlystage of human development. Another ethical issue is that iPS have thepotential to become a human embryo, effectively creating a clone of the donoralthough many places around the world have put orders in place the ban humancloning all together. As stem cell research continues, new alternatives arebeing found and the ethical issues and arguments start to fade away.
In myopinion, the act of obtaining hES helps scientists make phenomenalbreakthroughs and it is worth the sacrifice of a blastocyst, but on the otherhand it technically, destroying a life to be. Therefore,I’m torn because i believe that the research of stem cells would bring us to a medicalgolden age, personal medicine, prolonged life but I wouldn’t feel morallycorrect destroying countless lives to achieve that golden age.