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Benefits of stem cell research - Essay Example

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Benefits of Stem Cell Research Institution Abstract. Stem cells are unspecialized cells which are capable of self-renewal and also of differentiation into specialized cells. Stem cell research holds the promise of making an unmatched contribution towards tissue transplants, replacement of aging or damaged tissue, gene therapy and effective drug testing…
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Benefits of stem cell research
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Benefits of stem cell research

There are three types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are derived from the embryo and are pluripotent: they have the potential to become all the different cell types of the body. Adult, or somatic, stem cells are found in organs or tissues, and are multipotent: they can differentiate to yield the specialized cell types comprising that particular organ or tissue and are important for maintenance and repair of the organ or tissue. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell–like state. The dual capacity of stem cells for self-renewal, and for differentiation into particular types of cells and tissues, offers great potential for regenerating failing body parts and curing diseases that have so far defied drug-based treatment (NIH, 2002). Advocates of stem cell research consider it to be mankind’s greatest hope of survival. At the other end of the spectrum are the detractors, who paint a doomsday scenario of “a new world of “embryo farms” and “cloning mills” for the cultivation of human spare parts” (Weiss, n.d.). ...
Bone marrow contains blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells) that have been used for over four decades to treat blood cancers and other inherited blood disorders. Bone marrow transplants are able to permanently replace a patient’s diseased blood system and give the patient a new lease on life. Persons who have diseases of the bone marrow are injected with healthy hematopoietic stem cells that produce healthy blood cells, and replace the function of their own non-functioning bone marrow (NIH, 2002).  Umbilical cord blood, which is harvested from the umbilical cord of the baby after birth, is another source of hematopoietic stem cells that is being used in treatment. Cord blood is rich in a kind of stem cell that gives rise to oxygen-carrying red blood cells, disease-fighting white blood cells, and other parts of the blood and immune systems (Weiss, n.d.). The advantage of cord blood cells is that these stem cells can be frozen (‘cryopreserved’) in cell banks and later be used to treat children with cancerous blood disorders such as leukaemia, as well as genetic blood diseases like Fanconi anaemia. Another advantage of cord blood transplants is that they are less likely than conventional bone marrow transplants to be rejected by the immune system, or to result in a negative reaction such as Graft versus Host Disease. (EuroStemCell, 2013). Unlike conventional blood transfusions, which provide only temporary volumes of cells which die in a few months and have to be replaced yet again, the stem cells found in bone marrow and cord blood can generate fresh blood and immune cells for a lifetime (Weiss, n.d.).More advanced techniques for collecting, or “harvesting,” hematopoietic stem cells are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma, ... Read More
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