Stem Cell research and use is a highly controversial issue in the scientific and medical arena. Stem cells are a group of cells found in the human body that have no specified function. They have the ability to become any type of cell that the body requires and to regenerate quickly. There are two main types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are most often found in 4-5 day old embryos and umbilical cord blood. Adult stem cells come from bone marrow, blood, brain and liver.
Stem Cell Uses
- Stem cells from embryos are often used for research. Scientists are using them to understand how the human body develops in the womb. They believe by studying this they can learn about how cell differentiate to become functioning cells with specific functions. They also believe that they can learn how to correct abnormal development of cells such as what occurs in cancer.
- Stem cells are also used to test the effectiveness of new drugs. This is already being done with cancer cells and other cells that show mutation.
- Research is also being done using stem cells to see if new tissue and cell types can be grown to help replace damaged tissues in human bodies. It is hoped that they can potentially be used to help treat and cure Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The first human medical trial for embryonic stem cells started in Atlanta on October 13, 2010 for spinal injury victims
- Adult stem cells are often used in the treatment of leukaemia and related blood/bone cancers
- Adult stem cells are also used as part of the bone grafting procedure.
- Adult stem cells are also used in the veterinarian practices for treatment of tendon damage in horses.