Frequently Asked Questions
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What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are cells without specific structure that may give rise to other kinds of cells. If allowed to reach their full potential, they could be used to treat and cure various diseases and conditions.
How were Stem Cells discovered, and how did Stem Cell Research Begin?
Stem cells were essentially discovered almost fifty years ago by a man named Leroy Stevens. While working at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor , ME he found a lab mouse with unusually enlarged scrotum. When he examined the mouse, he discovered that there had been a tumor inside of its scrotum that contained various tissues, including those of hair and teeth. He traced the origins of the tumor to a stem cell.
Are There any Dangers Associated with the Use of Stem Cells?
There can be serious consequences if the donor's stem cells are not compatible with their recipient.
How exactly do Stem Cells Treat Diseases?
Stem cells could be used to treat diseases because of their ability to become different types of cells. So, if a disease, such as Parkinson, involves the degeneration of a certain part of one's body, stem cells could be used to regenerate that part, and make it fully functional once again. The extent of stem cells' abilities to treat and cure diseases has not yet been fully discovered, and there is still much work to be done so that they may reach their full potential.
Have Stem Cells Been Used to Treat Diseases Yet?
Yes. Tests are being done on humans already. For instance, fetal stem cells have been tested on people with Parkinson's disease. There was notable improvement in younger patients. While older patients showed little to no improvement, the stem cells differentiated into neurons, some of which produced dopamine. Insufficient amounts of dopamine in the brain can be a cause of Parkinson's disease.
Why Not Use Stem Cells?
The main argument against the use of stem cells is an ethical one. Many believe that the use of embryonic stem cells is disrespectful to the dead, saying that it's on par with experimenting on someone's body when that person never agreed to it.
Can Animal Stem Cells be used to Help Humans?
Research up to this point has shown that animal stem cells could not prove useful to humans. While the study of animal stem cells, such as those in mice, has helped scientists to understand much better how to use stem cells and what they are, stem cells could not be used in any medical situation to help humans.
What are the Alternatives?
While there are no direct alternatives to stem cells, because none of them have the potential that stem cells do, there are different methods of treating diseases that would be similar to the use of stem cells. Among them are organ transplantation, bone marrow transplantation, and the use of cord blood.
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