Cells and the Future of Health Care
Although the medical field of Stem Cell Research is in its infancy,
its potential for improving health care around the world is
unprecedented. In the next generation of medicine, there is no doubt
that new procedures and methodologies utilizing stem cells will
change the way that people all across America and the globe live.
is a Stem Cell?
Stem cells are literally the building blocks of a human being. Stem
cells are cells which contain the genetic code to build something
larger than themselves. When a human being is conceived, it begins as
a microscopic ball of these stem cells. Over time, these cells
differentiate and develop into the various cells, tissues, and organs
that an organism must have to survive.
By investing our time and energy in researching stem cells, we are
able to observe how a human is formed one tiny step at a time.
Research involving Stem Cells and how to utilize them effectively in
a medical environment will eventually change the way that physicians
and surgeons practice medicine and conduct patient care.
Although human beings have an amazing capacity for regeneration,
there are limitations to the ways in which an adult stem cell can
repair injured tissue or organs. For example, neurons have an
extremely limited capacity to heal and regenerate. There is evidence
that stem cells have the ability to regenerate tissue in ways that
are simply impossible for adult cells, because of their immature
Because of the unique nature of stem cells, in the future, the
potential for stem cells to be utilized in order to repair or replace
damaged organs and tissues has the ability to significantly alter the
way that we treat everything from cancer to arthritis.
Stem Cell Research Improve our Lives?
numerous ways in which Stem Cells may improve the way that we
practice medicine. A number of medical afflictions have the terrible
capacity to destroy tissue to an extent that regrowth and
rehabilitation is not possible. By manipulating Stem Cells, it will
likely be possible to stimulate the regrowth of tissues and organs
like the liver or kidneys that the body no longer has the ability to
repair on its own. There is even potential that sometime in the
future, stem cells may be used to completely regrow new organs for
transplantation, vastly reducing the risk of rejection and reducing
the need to wait on donor organs.
hypothesize that numerous diseases which are considered incurable
today will likely find their cure via Stem Cell Research. The
benefits of Stem Cell Replacement can potentially lead to amazing
changes in the way that we treat cancer, arthritis, stroke, heart
disease, spinal cord damage, diabetes, burns, and even neurological
disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's.
addition to the potential benefits provided by Stem Cell Treatments
themselves, Stem Cells are currently being used in order to foster an
enhanced understanding of how our genetics contribute to the initial
stages of cellular development. By studying this initial stage of
development at a cellular level, we will be able to more fully
realize exactly how certain cells and cellular constructs develop
improperly, contributing to both birth defects and cancer.
more complete understanding of Stem Cell Replication and
Differentiation, medical researchers will gain vital insights as to
how to eliminate the spread of many of these diseases of early
are the Goals of Modern Stem Cell Research?
At this stage in Stem Cell Research, physicians and researchers are
looking to enhance the effectiveness of current medical treatments
and find ways to treat patients while diminishing the invasive nature
of many forms of current treatment.
ideally, medical professionals would like to use the stem cells of
the patient, current Stem Cell Treatments are generally administered
using cells received from a donor. Although these cells still have
the potential to provide significant benefits, the ideal stem cells
would come from the patient being treated. Even with modern
techniques to prevent rejection, there is still the potential that
the immune system of the patient will reject the donor stem cells.
learn more about Adult Stem Cells, we will eventually be able to
treat a patient with his or her own stem cells. By using a patient's
own stem cells, the risk of rejection drops significantly, and may
even be removed completely. There are a number of hypotheses
regarding how this goal may be achieved:
adult stem cells from an individual and alter them in a laboratory
environment so that they develop into a certain type of tissue.
After the tissue forms and develops, it could be transplanted to a
target area of the body in need of treatment, where it could restore
function lost through tissue damage.
technique known as Therapeutic Cloning could be used in order to
create embryos full of immature stem cells which would be identical
to those of the individual.
third technique to use Stem Cells for therapeutic advantage would be
to encourage stem cells contained within the body naturally to
perform healing functions. One scientific hypothesis is that it may
be possible to design medications which would encourage a certain
form of stem cell to multiply therapeutically within the patient.
This form of treatment would reduce the need to go under the knife
in order to gain the therapeutic benefit of stem cell therapy.
value, the potential benefits of Stem Cell Treatment seem endless.
Would it not be possible to utilize stem cells to heal or replace
damaged or destroyed tissue within the patient? In order to reveal
the true healing capacity of Stem Cell Treatment, there are a number
of questions which must be answered first:
Effective will Stem Cell Treatments be Long-Term?
One of the
primary reasons that we grow older is because our cells themselves
age for a variety of reasons. An important question that must be
answered is if Adult Stem Cell Treatments will malfunction or lose
efficiency faster than cells naturally formed by the human body.
There is limited evidence regarding the long-term potential of Stem
can we do to make sure that Stem Cell Treatments don't develop into
harvested from embryos are genetically designed to divide repeatedly
and not develop differentiation. In order for Stem Cell Treatment to
be effective,, scientists have to be able to manipulate the stem
cells into a desired form of differentiation.
goal of differentiation is not reached, this has the potential to
lead to tumor formation, because the embryo will continue to divide
and flood its immediate area with more undifferentiated cells. In
order for Embryonic Stem Cells to be an effective treatment, they
must be effectively and tightly controlled.
adult and embryonic stem cells, if the genes within the cells are not
guided and regulated properly, it may lead to tumor development.
There are questions regarding how stem cells will act when they have
been active in a laboratory environment before transplantation. There
is a possibility that these cells may differentiate in a different
way than stem cells that are harvested directly from a patient.
would cause this?
majority of cells in the human physiology are not designed for
infinite revision, and they definitely aren't designed to develop in
a sterile laboratory environment. Numerous types of tissue, such as
skin cells and blood cells, have particular biological processes
which control differentiation, division, and apoptosis after a
certain length of time. These cues are the result of biological
signals received from the entire environment of an organ or organism.
for cells to divide indefinitely in a laboratory environment, the
process of normal development must be stalled. The way that
scientists achieve this form of artificial growth is to house the
cells in an solution which contains the nutrients vital for their
survival as well as proteins which encourage their reproduction. In
the majority of these environments, many of the developmental signals
that exist in a living environment do not exist in the lab.
shows that some kinds of cells don't react as well to this type of
environment as others. A certain percentage of the cells will not
survive, and the cells which are more effectively designed to
withstand non-finite growth will propagate.
certain number of divisions in vitro, the cells which remain could
hypothetically evolve so much that they no longer react effectively
to the normal signals provided by its natural physiological
ecosystem. There are even theories that keeping stem cells in vitro
for an extended period of time could even alter the genetic structure
of the cells. These changes could encourage the development of
the body's natural ecosystem within a lab is one of the most
difficult aspects of stem cell research. It is actually one of the
primary goals of global stem cell research across the globe. In order
for stem cell treatments to be maximally effective, we will have to
learn how to store and develop stem cells in an environment which
closely mimics that of its location within our body.
of the Nanog Protein
There are important studies and advances in recent years which give
hope that we can extend the usefulness of stem cells, even those that
have remained in vitro for an extended period of time. Recently, Stem
Cell Researchers have discovered exactly how stem cells can persist
in their undifferentiated state for an infinite period of time.
The study was endowed by a charity known as the Wellcome Trust, which
specializes in providing independent funding to novel research
regarding the enhancement of human and animal life and longevity.
Researchers have discovered a unique protein which has the ability to
preserve non-differentiated stem cells. Another name for these cells
are Pluripotent Stemcells. This means that the stem cells have the
ability to evolve into a multitude of different types of tissue.
scientists for years have suspected that Nanog played a special role
in the control of differentiation, researchers from Cambridge have
discovered that Nanog is actually the mechanism which controls the
development and differentiation of stem cells.
enhancing scientific knowledge regarding Nanog, researchers are able
to more fully understand the mechanisms by which stem cells function,
and the more that we understand stem cells, the more safely that we
will be able to use them for more and greater medical treatments.
Isolation of the Nanog Protein
been previously hypothesized, but was not isolated until a decade
ago, when it was discovered to play a significant role in the
maintenance of pluripotency. Although researchers recognized its
importance, they could not yet pinpoint exactly how Nanog prevented
differentiation in stem cells.
Cambridge Study, scientists were able to demonstrate that Nanog is
the lynchpin of a complex balance of protein and gene maintenance
which maintains the stem cells in the pluripotent stage.
the presence of Nanog, Stem Cells cannot remain indefinitely
undifferentiated. Also, without the influence of Nanog, it is
impossible to recalibrate fully developed cells to return to a state
of pluripotence. the specific period in which Nanog must be present
is during the last stage of reprogramming. Without the presence of
Nanog, the stem cell gets locked in a state of partial development.
medical representative from the Wellcome Trust Center, Doctor Silva,
explains that the medical research demonstrates that Nanog has the
specific power to maintain the property on non-differentiation
to more fully recognize the influence of Nanog, researchers must
study more deeply into the function of Nanog in order to determine
exactly how the protein influences early human development during the
Importance of Understanding Pluripotency
to expand the usefulness of Stem Cell Therapies to a greater variety
of potential treatments, it is vital to understand exactly how stem
cells thrive in a pluripotent state as well as how they
differentiate. Nanog research is an important gateway into the future
of Stem Cell Utilization.
understanding the pluripotent nature of stem cells, researchers hope
to one day be able to convert adult cells back into their early forms
so that they can be used in order to treat a variety of medical
conditions more effectively and more cheaply than we ever thought
possible. Rather than be stuck with limited sources of stem cells,
such as those acquired from donors, or those acquired from embryonic
stem cells, scientists could revert adult cells into embryonic stem
cells, then convert them into other vitally needed types of tissue,
such as nerve cells or kidney cells.
scientists are able to make these hypotheses realities, then numerous
chronic diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's could be treated
more effectively, or even one day completely cured.
success of this research, we may one day be able to live far longer
than we ever thought imaginable.