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    The Potential of Embryonic Stem Cells

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    Some people may ask what stem cells are, how they work, and why they are being researched. “Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth” (“Stem Cell Basics III.”). Stem cells can be turned into certain cell types in order to help treat certain diseases. Stem cells are classified into two primary groups, embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells. Some questions arise while researching these two types of stem cells, such as how embryonic stem cells multiply without becoming specialized, why most adult stem cells cannot multiply as fast, and what happens in the body to make stem cells multiply rapidly (“Stem Cell Basics III.”). Even though these questions arise, researchers work hard to answer these questions on how stem cells work.

    Stem cells are cells that are cells that are similar in the body. (“ELibrary Minnesota”). Stem cells divide to help create other cell types that have specialized jobs that can make up different types of tissues and organs. “There is great interest in stem cells because they have potential in the development of therapies for replacing defective or damaged cells resulting from a variety of disorders and injuries” (“ELibrary Minnesota”). The unique ability of embryonic stem cells to repair cells is what keeps researchers interested in stem cells. The use of embryonic stem cells is used in forming all types of cells, whereas adult stem cells can only form into certain cells that make up tissues in the body (“Stem Cell Basics III”). Research is important because stem cells can be used in treating a wide variety of genetic diseases and certain injuries. Embryonic stem cells do this by repairing cells and tissues within the body producing them, which is an important piece in advancing medicine for diseases in the future.

    Along with advancing medicine, embryonic stem cell research has changed how specific diseases can be treated and, in the future, cured. Human embryonic stem cells can create a large number of cells such as dopamine-secreting neurons which are used in treating Parkinson’s disease. Another disease that can be treated by embryonic stem cells is diabetes which can be treated when embryonic stem cells turn into insulin-producing cells (“ELibrary Minnesota”). Alzheimer’s disease can also be treated with embryonic stem cells by restoring the damaged cells that were caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Embryonic stem cells help treat these diseases by being moved to the area where the damaged cells are, but they must be turned into a certain cell first. (“The Power of Stem Cells”). Even though embryonic stem cells can turn into certain cell types to help treat these diseases, researchers have not found a way to treat the diseases efficiently yet (“Stem Cells Basics III”).

    In addition to having the ability to help treat diseases, embryonic stem cells can also treat injuries. Some injuries that can be treated are spinal injuries and arthritis. Those injuries can be treated by stem cell transplants. Transplanting embryonic stem cells can help repair damaged cells by these injuries. “Dr. E. Donnel Thomas shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990 for his pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation, which began 50 years ago. Historically thought of as tissue transplantation, considerations of the role of bone marrow in blood formation reveal marrow transplantation is essentially bone marrow stem cell therapy”(Kiessling and Anderson 6). Embryonic stem cells can turn into neurons and replace damaged nerves, and they work similarly to the old injured nerve and send signals throughout the body (Kiessling and Anderson 10). Research is greatly helping with treating these injuries and it is important with further medical advances in the future.

    Although embryonic stem cells are being researched to help treat injuries, they are being tested on mice to see how the stem cells can work with humans. Embryonic stem cell research first started on mice. The embryonic stem cells are first gathered when the embryo is at an early stage of development. Then the embryonic stem cells are taken from a ball of cells from the embryo. Embryonic stem cells of mice are used for researching how to treat a mouse that has a certain disease. If mouse embryonic stem cells are injected into a mouse embryo at the blastocyst stage, the new cells that are created by the stem cells can turn into the new tissues as the cells mature within the mouse. Mouse embryonic stem cells are used to change the DNA of mice, to help understand how the disease can be treated. Genetically modifying mice happens by taking certain genes and taking the genetic variant needed, then the modified cells are inserted into the developing mouse embryonic stem cells. The modified cells that are injected in the mouse creates a new genetic line of mice. The new genetic lines are used in research on how to stop multiple genetic diseases in humans. Conducting experiments on mice are used to see what causes the disease and how the diseases can be treated properly (“ELibrary Minnesota”).

    Besides experiments on mice, researchers have been building models on how embryonic stem cells work. “Using human embryonic stem cells (ES cells), researchers have generated models of early human embryos in the lab that are more complex than any previous lab-generated embryo model, NPR reports” (Taylor). Researchers have discovered that a protein BMP4 makes the models of embryos not symmetric and the shape changes from a ball to an oval type shape. With embryo models, researchers are finding out how embryonic stem cells work (Taylor). Researchers are also learning how to grow organs that have no function and learning how the cells form tissues and what conditions make the cells grow into certain cell types (“Eurostemcell”). Researchers want to continue to make more complicated models to help with embryonic stem cell development and to make them work.

    In addition to embryonic stem cells, there are adult stem cells. The main difference between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells is their unique abilities in becoming certain cell types. Embryonic stem cells can turn into any cell type within the body, whereas adult stem cells can only become the cell type from which the cell came from. The growth of embryonic stem cells is easier than adult stem cells as well. Adult stem cells are harder to grow in labs because they are harder and rarer to find in adult tissue. Adult stem cells have a lower chance of rejection after transplantation then embryonic stem cells do. The adult stem cells come from the patient, meaning that the patient’s body would have a lower chance of rejecting the tissue made from the adult stem cells (“Stem Cell Basics III”). Both types of stem cells are very effective, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Even though the researchers obtain the adult and embryonic stem cells, getting the cells to do their jobs is not an easy task. Growing a large number of embryonic stem cells is difficult for researchers to do. Researchers do tests on certain cells, to find which cells are embryonic stem cells. One test is to grow stem cells, to observe if they grow for a long period of time, along with the cells being capable to heal and repair as well. Doing this test makes sure that the stem cell has not become a certain cell type yet. Another way to see if the cells are embryonic cell types is by testing if the stem cells can create various types of cells when grown in cell culture, or cells growing out of their regular environment. Scientists are trying to find ways to stop the problem of the body rejecting types of tissue created by embryonic stem cells (“Stem Cell Basics III”). Making the embryonic stem cells function is difficult, but the power of stem cells to treat diseases is what the researchers are aiming for.

    With every experiment done on embryonic stem cells, society is closer to treating diseases and injuries. From having few answers on how to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes, researchers have found out how embryonic stem cells can treat these diseases. Arthritis and spinal cord injuries that cause damage to nerves also have the chance to be cured, once researchers get the stem cells to work. These genetic diseases seemed almost impossible to treat, but embryonic stem cell research has opened many doors in medical advancement. Embryonic stem cells are valuable because they have the power to treat diseases and injuries and they do this by healing the damaged cells throughout the body (ELibrary Minnesota”). Embryonic stem cells are the new way to cure diseases and injuries in the future and embryonic stem cell research makes this possible. Without embryonic stem cell research, some diseases may have taken longer to find treatments and cures. Even though it is not for certain that embryonic stem cells can treat these diseases and injuries right now, they are a huge leap in medical research and will benefit many people.

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