‘Stem cells’ is one of the widely discussed topics in recent years. Scientific progress led to the understanding the mechanism of stem cells and their use in therapeutic applications, which involve the treatment of cancer, diseases related to heart, brain and many others . Stem cells are a distinct type of cells, which are capable of regenerating themselves through the process of cell division. Under experimental conditions, stem cells have the ability to transform into tissue-specific or organ-specific cells. Since stem cells are unspecialized cells, they are capable of producing specialized cells through the process of differentiation . While embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, they can produce any type of cells, unlike adult stem cells which rarely possess such property . The major focus of medical research on stem cells turned towards developing and transforming the stem cells into different types of tissues and healing the bodies of individuals using these tissues.
Since the cells of human body are multipotent, the stem cells in an adult do not have the capability to regenerate in large numbers. However, the earliest embryonic cells are capable of generating an entire organism. Scientists are looking forward to extracting a limited number of stem cells from a body and developing them into large numbers under laboratory conditions. The bone marrow is one of the richest sources of stem cells in the body of an adult. The bone marrow contains both hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells . While hematopoietic stem cells have the potential to develop different types of blood, mesenchymal cells can give rise to cartilages, bones and fat . Mesenchymal cells are also found in other parts of the body apart from the bone marrow.
In the case of Type I diabetes, researchers were able to prove stem cells as a perfect cure in mice. Injecting the insulin-producing stem cells in mice suffering from diabetes, the researchers were able to cure its disease, which creates a hope regarding the cure of diabetes in human beings . Transplanting beta cells from a recently died body into a patient suffering from diabetes helps to cure the disease, however, the patient must be under continuous administration of medicines to prevent the immune system from damaging the cells. The use of beta cells derived from the stem cells of the patient reduces the immune system’s chances of rejection of cells . Researchers are in the process of producing beta cells from adult stem cells to provide a permanent cure for diabetes. While producing the beta cells from stem cells solves a part of the problem, the main issue lies in protecting the cells from the immune system rejection, which still needs to undergo experiments .
Though the stem cells promise to cure chronic diseases, the technical difficulties still remain, which one can overcome only after several years of extensive research. On the other hand, there are several others who oppose stem cell research on an ethical point of view. One has to consider both the scientific as well as moral implications of stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells are a cure for various diseases; however, it is unethical to destroy the embryo, fetus or human being for the purpose of research . Medical research is crossing the ethical boundaries to a great extent when compared to the past. The past mistakes of medical research led to the enforcement of strict medical research standards, which include the protection of the lives of the mentally-ill, minorities and many others . Strict laws should come into force in order to prevent the destruction of embryos by stem cell research.
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