What are the Possibilities?
Stem cells, whether umbilical, adult or embryonic, have miraculous possibilities. While part of their study is simply to find out what makes such differentiation possible among cells that were identical at the start, the main attraction to the research field is the possibility of healing a range of illness in human beings. Although the science had not yet been perfected to its full cutting edge of possibilities, it is clear that the science has the potential to save thousands of lives.
The understanding and control afforded by stem cells give us an edge in the fight against diseases such as cancer.
It is important to note that even though stem cell research is not yet a finite art, many possible cures will eventually be available. Some applications are as follows:
Brain damage caused by strokes and traumatic brain injury can be potentially healed by stem cells. Adult brain stem cells tend to not grow at a satisfactory rate following a head injury, causing permanent damage. Stem cells can rectify this and repair damaged tissue. Stem cell transplants can essentially replace lost or damaged brain tissue and all but replace the need for further medical attention.
Cancer is essentially the multiplication of abnormal or mutated cells. For the past thirty years, bone marrow cells and umbilical cord cells have been used in the ongoing fight against cancer such as leukemia and lymphoma. This is done through the replacement of adult stem cells destroyed through chemotherapy – with the stem cells obtained through a Donors’ system that was first set up in the United Kingdom.
Students at Harvard Medical School have noted that stem cells injected into the body of an animal with a cancerous tumor migrate to the infected area and release an enzyme called cytosine deaminase which converts a non-toxic pro drug into a chemotherapeutic agent, reducing the tumor mass by 81%.
Spinal cord injury is another condition treatable by stem cells. Researchers in Seoul, Korea in 2004 successfully treated a paralyzed lady; Hwang Mi-Soon, with stem cells. She was observed to regain control of her lower body and after 25 days could once again feel her feet, it was observed that not only were the nervous system neurons regrown, but the myelin sheath also formed.Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2005 formed stem cells into a spinal cord motor neuron, making spinal cord injury curable. It is potentially possible to use umbilical cord blood stem cells instead of embryonic cells in the procedure.
Heart injuries can be repaired by stem cells and is commercially offered on five continents. It is reported that 75% of patients regain quality of life after the treatment. It is normally carried out with stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow.