Advancements in medicine and biotechnology are occurring every day. One such area of growth involves stem cells. What exactly is a stem cell? This is a generic cell that can develop into a variety of more specialized cells. There are three major types of stem cells. These major types are embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent and, adult stem cells (1). Potentially, stem cells can turn into a specific type of organ in the human body if needed such as a liver or kidney.
Stem cells come from many sources in the body. Adult stem cells can be removed from adult’s tissues. Embryonic stem cells are stem cells taken from embryos that have been grown in a lab (2). This is where there is a lot of controversy on whether stem cells should be used or not. (Picture to the right 9)
Stem cells function differently from other cells in the body. Stem cells are undefined cells that keep reproducing themselves until they become specified. Because stem cells are not defined, these cells have the ability to develop into any cell in the body. This can make them very important to medicine and biotechnology.
Stem cells can be used to directly affect patients. People, who do not have good bone marrow can have transplants from a matching donor. If the transplant is successful, the stem cells will become healthy cells to replace the abnormal cells (3).
Currently there is a debate whether or not stem cells should be used in research. I personally believe that stem cell research should be used in medicine today. I believe that a lot of good can come from it which would add value to the lives of thousands in the world.
One such way people could be helped through stem cells is with organ transplants. Many people are on waiting lists to receive a new organ. There is a high demand, but a low supply of these. With stem cells we can produce a specific tissue to meet the needs of people (4). This can help increase the low supply and it is very time effective which can be useful to people on long waiting lists who have needs.
Stem cells also let us test drugs and new medicines on tissues made with them. This increases the level of safety for human test subjects (5). This can help take the risks and unknown effects that these new medicines may have associated with them. Many drugs are toxic to human cells, with stem cells, this takes the risk out something bad happening to a person that has taken a previously untested drug, or one in the early stages of research. Many scientists think that testing potential drugs on embryonic stem cells could be more accurate than the processes currently used (6). This also means that fewer animals would be killed for research and also make research faster and cheaper. This could make certain medicines safer for use, and make less potential risks for these medicines.
Stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine involves using medicine, science, and biotechnology to repair damaged tissues and organs. This science could be used to help with damage resulted from heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and other health problems (7).
People who are burn victims can also benefit from this research. When somebody needs a skin graft, they can use stem cells to make new healthy skin. Stem cells can affect the skin’s healing and help it overcome damage (8).
All though there are supporters for such research, many others believe that stem cells should not be used. I strongly believe using these cells in science have many positive outcomes that outweigh not using them. Taking advantage of this science is a must.