Imagine being able to grow replacement for brain, muscle or organ tissue in the lab which can be implanted into a patient without being rejected.
That too with your own cell. This type of cells are known as stem cells. There is buzz about stem cell in the medical industry today and people are calling it a miracle of science.Disease like Alzheimer’s may be treated successfully for the first time. Looking ahead, some experts have even predicted about growing fully functioning heart, liver and limbs.
Here are 12 lesser known facts about stem cell research that you should know:
1. The idea of cloning is not new. Researchers believe that this process will solve the problem of transplant tissue rejection. A patient with, say, Parkinson’s disease, could have embryos cloned from his own cells. Stem cells taken from these embryos may then be used to provide replacement brain tissue which, implanted back into the patient, would not be rejected.
2. A day might come when every individual will have a store of personal stem cells available to provide him or her with replacement tissue if needed. By the middle of this century, organ donor shortages and tissue rejection might be things of the past.
3. Currently, very few stem cell treatments have been proven safe and effective. The list of diseases for which stem cell treatments have been shown to be beneficial is still very short. The best-defined and most extensively used stem cell treatment is hematopoietic (or blood) stem cell transplantation, for example, bone marrow transplantation, to treat certain blood and immune system disorders or to rebuild the blood system after treatments for some kinds of cancer. Other applications of stem cells are yet to be proven in clinical trials and should be considered highly experimental.
4. Since this therapy is still undergoing research,there are possibilities that an approach which seemed promising in the lab,may not work in animals, or that an approach that worked in animals, may not work in humans. They may discover that a treatment effectively addresses symptoms of a disease or injury in humans, but that it carries unacceptable risks. This process by which science becomes medicine is often long, but it is designed to minimize patient harm and to maximize the likelihood of effectiveness.
5. The same stem cell treatment is unlikely to work for different diseases or conditions. As stem cells that are specific to certain tissues cannot make cells found in other tissues without careful manipulation in the lab, it is very unlikely that the same stem cell treatment will work for diseases affecting different tissues and organs within the body.
6. Scientists have discovered how to make certain specialized cell types through a multi-step processes using pluripotent stem cells, that is embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These cells have the potential to form all the different cell types in the body and offer an exciting opportunity to develop new treatment strategies. Embryonic stem cells and iPS cells, however, cannot be used directly as treatments, as they require careful instruction to become the specific cells needed to regenerate diseased or damaged tissue.
7. There is no guarantee that stem cell therapy might be effective for a disease or condition, it is easy to understand why you may feel there is nothing to lose from trying something new, even if it isn’t proven. Unfortunately, most of the unproven stem cell treatments for sale throughout the world carry very little promise of actual benefit and very real risks.
8. It can be hard to tell the difference between doctors conducting responsible clinical trials and clinics selling unproven treatments. One common differentiator is the way a treatment is marketed. Most specialized doctors receive patient referrals, while clinics selling stem cell treatments tend to market directly to patients, often through persuasive language on the Internet, Facebook and in newspaper advertisements.
9. Some intriguing new studies suggest that understanding how embryonic stem cells behave will bring new insights into cancer. And learning how embryonic stem cells can go awry may make it possible to intervene and avoid birth defects.
10.The cells scientists use come from embryos just five days after fertilization. If some of these cells are placed in a lab dish in the right conditions, they can become stem cell lines that can be maintained indefinitely in an undifferentiated state, or guided to become specific types of cells.
11. Scientists want to use these embryonic cells because they have the capacity to turn into any of the 200 cell types in the body. These “master cells” promise to provide large enough quantities of specialized nerve, pancreas or other cells to effectively help patients whose own cells are not functioning.
12. Currently there are three key areas of stem cell research: embryonic stem cells, tissue/adult stem cells and induced pluripotent (or “reprogrammed”) stem cells.Around the world, these three kinds of stem cells are under intense study for possible treatments for conditions from spinal cord injuries to juvenile diabetes. It would be shortsighted to pursue only one kind,as each may hold particular promise for understanding and treating specific diseases.