Stem Cell Therapy enhances the body’s natural healing processes, and is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in recent regenerative medicine. It offers incredible treatment for a wide range of illnesses for which doctors previously had no acceptable treatments. 

In this Mind The Graph article, you will learn about stem cell research: pros and cons, what is it, and the various types of stem cells available. This article will also provide you with successful stories to better understand the topic.

What are stem cells?

The body has original raw material in the form of stem cells. These stem cells are responsible for the development of all other cells with specific roles. When given the right conditions, either in the body or in a laboratory, stem cells divide to produce new cells known as daughter cells.

The daughter cells have the ability to transform into more stem cells or cells with a specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells, or bone cells. There is no other cell in the body that can naturally generate new cell types like a stem cell.

Types of stem cells

Embryonic stem cells

Embryonic stem cells are extracted from the blastocyst, a mostly empty ball of cells that develops three to five days after an egg cell is fertilized by a sperm in humans. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, which means they can give rise to all cell types in a fully developed organism, save the placenta and umbilical cord. 

These cells that have been separated from the inner cell mass will evolve into more specialized cells, which will give rise to all of the body’s tissues and organs. When scientists remove the inner cell mass and cultivate it in a particular laboratory environment, the cells maintain the qualities of embryonic stem cells.

These cells are extremely significant because they provide a sustainable supply for researching normal development and illness, as well as evaluating medicines and other treatments.

Tissue-specific stem cells

Tissue-specific stem cells (most known as adult stem cells) have a higher level of specialization than embryonic stem cells.  Typically, these stem cells may produce a wide range of cell types for the tissue or organ in which they dwell. 

Tissue-specific stem cells are rare to detect in the human body, and they do not appear to self-renew in culture as easily as embryonic stem cells. However, research on these cells has expanded our overall understanding of normal development, how aging affects us, and what occurs in the event of an injury and disease.

Mesenchymal stem cells

Cells derived from stroma, the connective tissue that surrounds other tissues and organs, are referred to as “mesenchymal stem cells” or MSC. Many scientists refer to cells with this designation as “stromal cells.”

These cells were initially found in the bone marrow and were demonstrated to be capable of producing bone, cartilage, and fat cells. They have now been produced from various tissues such as fat and cord blood. Various MSCs are assumed to have stem cell and even immunomodulatory qualities, and they are being explored as therapies for a wide range of illnesses, although there is no evidence that they are useful yet. Scientists do not know for certain if these cells are stem cells or what sorts of cells they can generate. They do agree that not all MSCs are the same and that their properties vary depending on where they come from in the body and how they are separated and produced.

Induced pluripotent stem cells

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are lab-engineered cells that have been transformed from tissue-specific cells, such as skin cells and into cells that act like embryonic stem cells. IPS cells are important tools for scientists to understand more about developmental stages, illness initiation, and progression, as well as create and test new medications and treatments.

While iPS cells possess a lot of the same properties as embryonic stem cells, such as the potential to give birth to all cell types in the body, they are not identical. Scientists are trying to figure out what these distinctions are and what they represent. For one thing, the first iPS cells were created by inserting additional copies of genes into tissue-specific cells using viruses. Researchers are exploring a variety of methods for creating iPS cells, to eventually use them as a source of cells or tissues for medicinal therapies.

Development in Stem Cell Research: successful stories

Before delving into the pros and cons of stem cell research, a few successful tales must be mentioned in this article.

Multiple Sclerosis

Reema Sandhu’s stem cell success story began in 2014 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, according to DailyMail. The disease can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a variety of life-altering symptoms such as severe disabilities, muscular spasms, and memory issues. She got an autologous stem cell transplant after years of frustration, in which her own stem cells were extracted from her blood and infused back into her body through intravenous infusion. Major improvements in Reema’s brain function were immediately evident. Her vision recovered two months after the transplant, and she went back to work. These encouraging results indicate that Reema’s MS has slowed as a result of her stem cell transplant.

Heart attack

According to DailyMail, Dave Randle was left with serious heart failure and a grim warning from specialists after suffering a heart attack in 2016. However, after learning that stem cells may be used to heal damaged hearts, Dave enrolled in therapy and received shots for 5 days in a row that pushed his bone marrow to allow stem cells to enter his circulation. These cells were then extracted and reintroduced into his heart. Dave’s stem cell success story had a happy ending weeks after the transplant – he began to feel stronger and physicians detected significant changes.

HIV

In 2013, a woman was diagnosed with HIV. According to the Journal, she was also diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in March 2017, making her a candidate for a stem cell transplant. She had a stem cell transplant via two blood transfusions: one from an older relative and the other from an unrelated baby. The baby, a partially matched donor, has a mutation in the CCR5 gene, which inhibits HIV’s capacity to infiltrate host cells. The woman stopped taking her HIV medication in 2020, and she hasn’t shown any measurable indications of the infection ever since. She has also been in remission from leukemia for almost four years.

Stem Cell Research: Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

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