Stem cells are quite remarkable. They have the ability to develop into a wide variety of cells during life. They also function as a repair system for many different tissues throughout the body, throughout someones life. When a stem cell is born, it either has the ability to remain a stem cell, or it becomes a cell with special function, such as a white blood cell or perhaps a brain cell.
There are two important features that set apart stem cells from other cells. Firstly, they are are unspecific cells that are able to divide after a long time of being inactive. Secondly, under certain circumstances, they can change to become tissue or organ specific cells. In some organs, such as the colon, stem cells continuously divide to replace old cells. However, in other organs, such as the heart, it is only under very specific conditions that stem cells have the ability to divide.
Scientists and Stem Cells
Until recent times, scientists only worked on two different kinds of stem cells. These were somatic stem cells and embryonic stem cells. It was in 1981 that scientists discovered how to extract embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, in 1988, it was discovered how to grow stem cells from human beings in the laboratory. Such cells are referred to as human embryonic stem cells. In these research studies that took place, the embryos were used for reproductive purposes. The donor then gave consent for them to be used for further research purposes. Another break through came in 2006, where scientists discovered that some specific adult cells are able to be reprogrammed to assume a state like a stem cell. In this process, therefore, a new type of stem cell was discovered, known as induced pluripotent stem cells.
Why stem cells are important
There are man reasons why stem cells are important for living organisms. When an embryo is behaving as a blastocyst, within the first 5 days, it cells beome specialist stem cells that become the tissues and organs wuch as the brain and heart. In adult tissues, stem cells are constantly regenerating cells in tissues such as the lungs that may be lost through wear and tear.
Stem Cells and Medicine
Stem cells offer hope for many people with a variety of medical conditions. They may help to provide new treatments for common diseases such as heart problems and diabetes. There is much work to be done in the laboratory, however, to understnad how new cell based therapies could be developed and used in the future.
Continued laboratory research and study enable scientists to further understand stem cells and develop new treatments. Everyday new drugs are being tested on stem cells to understand the way in which they will work.
Important stem cell study enables us to advance knowledge about the develop of the human, and their role in growth and repair. It is one of the most important and interesting areas of modern medicine. Of course, with any new scientific discovery, more questions are generated.