Essay on Stem Cell Research: Why It Should Be More Widely Accepted
According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease every single year. That means that one of every four people will die from heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases (Railton). Stem cells have the potential to cure this disease, along with many others. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells, meaning they can turn into any type of cells in the body. They can be used for many things, including regenerating damaged cells and finding treatments for diseases. Stem cell research and therapy should be more widely accepted all around the world because of its potential to “cure the incurable” and benefit the world as a whole. Stem cells have the potential to cure and treat diseases, can develop into any cells in the body, help us understand inherited diseases, be used for regenerative medicine, and can be used to test and improve drug development.
It can lead to finding more effective treatments and cures for diseases and ailments that are affecting our world. One ailment stem cells can help fix and treat is spinal cord injuries. In January, the Food and Drug Administration gave the nod to study a medical treatment made from embryonic stem cells, with the first ever human participant. The study is only being used to examine the safety of the treatment, but it will also be able to show if spinal paralyzed participants will begin to gain back feeling and control in their lower body (Lyon). Spinal cord injuries and paralysis can be treated and cured. By implanting embryonic stem cells into the spinal cord, it can hopefully regenerate the cells and allow the patient or subject to gain back feeling throughout their lower body.
Although this study is being examined for safeness and effectiveness, it is believed that this source of treatment will be very useful and can one day benefit people with paralysis of the lower body. Stem cells have been known to treat many blood diseases. The most well known treatment use of stem cells is known as blood transfusions, or transplants. Those transfusions can be used to treat both blood diseases and conditions, as well as restore the blood system for certain forms of cancer. According to EuroStemCell, “the US National Marrow Donor Program has a full list of diseases treatable by blood stem cell transplant. More than 26,000 patients are treated with blood stem cells” (Barfoot). Blood transfusions, besides chemotherapy, are one of the most common uses of treating cancer. Transfusions use stem cells to replace the diseased blood cells in the subject or patient’s circulatory system.
Hopefully, with the use of stem cells, more blood diseases and cancer will be able to be cured and treated. One treatable blood disease is sickle cell anemia. Along with studying Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries, stem cell scientists have also been studying ways to cure and treat different blood diseases. One of them is sickle cell anemia, a disease that can be deadly and is caused by abnormal hemoglobin levels in the blood. Lab mice have been cured of this disease after getting blood transfusions with stem cells that are made from their own skin cells (Lyon). Sickle cell anemia affects approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans. It is the most common inherited blood disorder. Using stem cells, subjects and patients could get cured from this disease. The stem cells will be able to fix their bodies’ hemoglobin problems, and can allow for treatment and cure of this disease. There are trials going on to test the effects of using stem cells to repair damaged parts of the eye.
According to Jane Barfoot, “Clinical studies in patients have shown that tissue stem cells taken from an area of the eye called the limbus can be used to repair damage to the cornea – the transparent layer at the front of the eye. If the cornea is severely damaged, for example by a chemical burn, limbal stem cells can be taken from the patient, multiplied in the lab and transplanted back onto the patient’s damaged eye(s) to restore sight. However, this can only help patients who have some undamaged limbal stem cells remaining in one of their eyes. The treatment has been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials and has now been approved by regulatory authorities for widespread use in Europe” (Barfoot). Stem cells can be inserted into the eye in order to restore sight and fix the damage. They can take the form of corneal cells so they can replace the damaged cells. This form of treatment has been approved for use in Europe, and it is hopefully going to be approved for use in other countries. Stem cells can be a key figure in the treatment and even curing of some of the world’s most prevalent diseases and ailments. Although stem cells in general are useful and beneficial, embryonic stem cells are considered master cells.
Embryonic stem cells have a variety of uses and are arguably the best form of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells could one day help many people living with Type 1 diabetes. Stem cells are the basic material from which other specialized cells come from. In pristine conditions, either in a body or in a lab, stem cells will multiply and form more cells. These are known as daughter cells, and they will become one of two things, new stem cells or specialized cells. When they become new stem cells, it is known as self-renewal. When it becomes a specialized cell, it is known as differentiation. Some examples of specialized cells include brain cells, blood cells, muscle cells, and bone cells. Embryonic stem cells are the only cell in the body that is able to develop into any other cell in the body (Mayo Clinic Staff). Type 1 diabetes affects many people around the world. It is caused by their immune system killing off pancreatic cells that make insulin.
Last year, scientists stated that they had used human embryonic stem cells to become pancreatic cells. These cells will be able to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar. Diabetic mice were the prime test subject of this research project. Their goal is to one day make this form of treatment available to humans (Lyon). Stem cells are basically the building blocks of specialized cells. Because of their ability to transform and specialize into any cell in the body, they are beneficial to healing, treatment, and research uses. Approximately 40,000 people will receive a type 1 diabetes diagnosis every year. Embryonic stem cells can become pancreatic cells and be used to produce insulin and regulate blood sugars, treating and possibly curing diabetes. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent. Pluripotent stem cells are cells that can become any type of specialized cell. They can become any cell from the three basic layers, so they are very useful for regenerative, healing, and treatment purposes.
Pluripotent stem cells are able to “self-renew”, so they are able to multiply in order to create more of themselves (Boston Children’s Hospital). Those layers that pluripotent cells can turn into being the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm layers. The ectoderm is the outermost layer of cells, it creates the nervous system cells, sensory organ cells, and skin cells. The mesoderm is the middle layer and it creates bone, muscle, and kidney cells. The endoderm is the innermost layer and it creates lungs and other respiratory cells, digestive cells, and stomach cells. These cells can be multiplied in a lab setting and can be used to treat diseases and for research purposes. Embryonic cells can become a variety of cell types including, nerve, brain, heart, skin, and bone. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, scientists have been studying how to “isolate and culture” human embryonic stem cells for over 10 years. Terry Devitt stated that “Using 14 blastocysts obtained from donated, surplus embryos produced by in vitro fertilization, the Wisconsin group established five independent cell lines.
The cell lines, derived from preimplantation stage embryos, were capable of prolonged, undifferentiated proliferation in culture and yet maintained the ability to develop into a variety of specific cell types, including neural, gut, muscle, bone, and cartilage cells (Devitt). Stem cells can be genetically engineered in both labs and fertility clinics. These undifferentiated cells are important because they can be formed into any cell in the body. If someone is injured or has a disease, stem cells can be placed in their body and can become heart, lung, blood, or any other type of cell. This ensures a shorter waiting period for transplants and some transfusions. Some people say that using embryonic stem cells are considered unethical. Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) stated this opposing argument:“Opponents argue that the research is unethical, because deriving the stem cells destroys the blastocyst, an unimplanted human embryo at the sixth to eighth day of development. As Bush declared when he vetoed last year’s stem cell bill, the federal government should not support ‘the taking of innocent human life.’” (Harvard University).
This counterargument is considered scientifically wrong, embryonic cells aren’t beginning to grow into a fetus yet. Embryonic stem cells are extracted from an embryo that has not been implanted and has not started growing in the uterus yet. It is not a fetus and does not have any human characteristics yet. It is a blastocyst, which is a clump of 180-200 cells that will grow in a culture dish. The blastocysts can be cloned in a lab or in fertility clinics (HSCI). Embryonic stem cells are considered the master cells because of their pluripotency abilities and their ability to help people with some forms of diseases. Along with stem cells helping cure and treat diseases, they can also be used to help study inherited diseases.
Stem cells will help us understand and diagnose inherited diseases. They can be used to observe inherited diseases during the stages of fetal development and early childhood. Amniocentesis, the sampling and examination of amniotic fluid, be used to precisely and promptly diagnose inherited genetic diseases early in the life of a fetus. It is diagnosed by examining fetal DNA. Usually, this test is only done if there is a family history of a particular disease. Some of these diseases will be treatable with stem cell transplants after the child is born. The ability to perform this transplant is dependant on the amount of donor stem cells available, the damage to the baby that the disease has caused, the rejection rate of the child’s immune system, and the rejection of the child’s tissue by the donor cells. That is known as graft-versus-host disease, or GVHD (CenterInherited Genetic Diseases: Stem Cell Treatments).
Testing early during fetal development is a very beneficial use of stem cells. After these diseases have been detected during fetal stages, stem cells can be implanted into the fetus to attempt to treat the disease they will be inheriting. This is going to benefit the world because it can lead to a lesser chance of getting very ill and possibly even dying from inherited diseases. This treatment has the ability to increase the quality of life for many people throughout the world. One inherited diseases that scientists are studying is Hunter syndrome. At the University of Manchester in England, a team of researchers has found an approach that could help children suffering from Hunter syndrome, a lysosomal storage disease caused by the deficiency of the lysosomal enzyme iduronate-2-sulfatase (IDS). While testing their hypothesis on a rat, the researchers used bone marrow cells and genetically re-engineered them to fix the mutation that was causing the issues.
They added what is known as a “tag” to the IDS enzyme in order to help it cross the blood barrier and deliver the therapy directly to the brain of the subject.The lead researchers of the study, Brian Bigger, stated that this therapy can help correct bone, joint, and brain disease in the mice or subjects (Lomax). Discovering a form of treatment for Hunter syndrome can pave the way to finding more treatments for diseases like Hunter’s. If stem cells can be this beneficial to treating diseases, who aren’t they more widely accepted? Genetically modified stem cells can be used for gene therapies. Monogenic inherited diseases, diseases that were caused by the inheritance of genetic defects, such as cystic fibrosis, were the main disease that scientists wanted to use gene therapy to treat. According to NIH, “pioneering studies on the correction of adenosine deaminase deficiency, a lymphocyte-associated severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), was attempted. Although no modulation of immune function was observed, data from this study, together with other early clinical trials, demonstrated the potential feasibility of gene transfer approaches as effective therapeutic strategies.
The first successful clinical trials using gene therapy to treat a monogenic disorder involved a different type of SCID, caused by mutation of an X chromosome-linked lymphocyte growth factor receptor.” (Zwaka). Genetic defects have the possibility of being treated with stem cells, this is called gene therapy. Many successful clinical trials have shown great improvements in this method of treatments, and scientists hope to make this method more easily accessible for patients and subjects that are suffering. Stem cells play a key role in the early diagnosis of inherited diseases. Stem cells can also be used to regenerate damaged cells in subjects and patients.
Stem cells can be used for regenerative medicine. Embryonic stem cells could play a big role in the treatment, and possibly even curing, of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's is a deadly disease that harms and kills brain cells. It can cause memory loss, awareness problems,and behavioral problems. Some believe that stem cells could treat, and one day cure, this disease, while others remain unsure of the concept (Lyon). Alzheimer’s affects around 5.7 million people in the world. Stem cells will be able to regenerate the patient’s brain cells can help with their memory problems. This will increase both the patient and their community’s way and quality of life. Stem cell transplants can replace damaged cells. In stem cell transplants, also known as bone marrow transplants, stem cells replace the damaged cells caused by chemotherapy or disease.
They also allow the donor’s immune system to take over and fight some forms of cancer and blood diseases. These diseases include leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and multiple myeloma. These transplants use both adult and embryonic stem cells (Mayo Clinic Staff). Stem cell transplants can replace damaged cells by entering into the patient’s body and being implanted into the portion of their body that needs replaced. These cells will form into the type of cell that is needed and will replace any cells that are damaged. Stem cells can be used to regenerate damaged heart tissue. Doctors can transplant stem cells grown in a lab in the patient’s heart. This will promote growing healthy tissue in place of the damaged tissue (Railton). Researchers performed a study based on the regenerative heart tissue method. The results concluded that the amount of damaged tissue in the heart, caused by heart attacks, was decreased by 40 percent. This occurred when doctors transplanted stem cells to the scarred areas of the heart (Railton). Damaged heart tissue is one of the most prevalent issues that comes from heart attacks. Stem cells can regenerate the tissue that was damaged and can help to heal the patient. When used for regenerative medicine, stem cells have the ability to replace and renew damaged cells from disease or injury. Stem cells can also be useful for drugs.
Stem cells can both discover new drugs and new drugs can be discovered to help stem cells. They are currently doing clinical trials on a drug that can increase the number of blood stem cells. Hematologist Leonard Zon, MD, Director of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, studied zebra fish in hopes of learning more about diseases. He placed the zebrafish embryos in a petri dish and observed how they reacted to over 2,500 chemicals. His hope was that one of the chemicals would cause an increase in the number of blood stem cells in the fish, which could help patients recover from chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant. Zon, along with other researchers, received news that they had found a chemical that had worked.
According to the Boston Children’s Hospital, that chemical is “a derivative of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), originally developed to fight stomach ulcers, but then abandoned, boosted blood stem cell formation three- to four-fold”. According to an article published in the Journal Nature in 2007, PGE2 was able to help both zebrafish and mice recover their blood cell populations after a major injury (Boston Children’s Hospital). This clinical trial shows that some drugs have the ability to increase the number of stem cells in the body. This can be beneficial because once the body has an increase in stem cells, they can be sent throughout the body in order for the body to regenerate itself. Cancer drugs can be studied by using stem cells. Pluripotent cells are the cells that are typically used for drug research. These cells have already gone through differentiation, but scientists have “genetically programmed” these cells using viruses, so they can become any cell in the body. They have the characteristics of undifferentiated stem cells, so scientists can use these cells to grow into specialized cells. Cancer cells are one of the cells that can be generated by pluripotent cells. Scientists and researchers can study those cells and use them to test anti-cancer drugs (Railton).
Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases throughout our world. Stem cells can be used to study anti-cancer drugs so they can figure out what drugs might work and what drugs they need to keep testing. Stem cells can be used to detect toxic drugs. New-found drugs are not normally tested on human heart cells because there are no lines to access those cells, so researchers have to resort to testing on animals. There are many differences between animal and human hearts, so some drugs that are toxic have entered the staged of clinical trials and have sometimes resulted in death. Human heart stem cells can be very useful in the detection of these toxic drugs before they are tested. That can speed up the drug discovery process and can also lead to safer and more effective treatments (Yu and Thomson). Stem cells can be tested to find toxic drugs. Human heart cells can form a human heart, which can then be used to test the drugs to see how humans will react to them.
In order to cure the incurable, stem cell research and therapy must be more widely accepted as a benefit to our world. Stem cell research has the potential to cure and treat diseases, develop into any cells in the body, help us understand inherited diseases, be used for regenerative medicine, and can be used to test and improve drug development. People should care about stem cells because everyone knows someone who is suffering from cancer or other diseases, and stem cells have the chance to treat and even cure those diseases. 610,000 people die from a form of heart disease every year. Stem cells have the ability to cure those diseases, along with finding new treatments and regenerating cells. Spread the word about stem cells, they are the master cells and can greatly benefit this world as a whole.