How are stem cells obtained? This is potentially the most controversial topic in stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research specifically has brought on a lot of ethical debate. While stem cells have revolutionized modern medicine and potentially hold the key to curing diseases and eliminating the need for organ transplants, this topic remains one of the most polarizing. Due to the debate surrounding this subject, it is important to be accurately informed of which stem cell types are most useful and why.
How are Stem Cells Obtained and Their Medical Applications
Ways to Acquire Stem Cells
Stem cells have revolutionized modern medicine and can even hold the key to organ transplants. Stem cells are a touchy topic, so it’s important to have accurate information. Read on to learn more!
1. From Embryos (Embryonic)
Stem cells are generated from an embryo (blastocyst) and can become one of two types of cells. This is how embryonic stem cells come into play. One is a daughter cell which can become specialized cells that make up the muscle, bone, brain, and heart, while more stem cells renew and replace old stem cells.
2. From Adult Cells (Non-Embryonic)
Adults have tissues and organs that contain stem cells. These non-embryonic stem cells are also called somatic stem cells and they have varying potentials:
- Nuclear Transfer: A technique that uses electrical stimulation on a nucleus and transfers it to a donor egg. The purpose is to encourage cell division.
- Genetic Transfer: A gene therapy method which introduces a retrovirus into an adult cell to erase its memory and introduce a new genetic material.
- Safer Transfer: Scientists are hoping to use chemicals instead of genes in gene therapy since the latter can cause tumors.
Medical Applications of Stem Cells
1. Treat a Disease
One of the uses of stem cells in medicine is to develop new genes that can cure diseases. These new genes can target defective tissue and replace them. Stem cells can also restore or regenerate damaged tissue in organs such as the heart, liver, and brain.
2. Research a Disease
New genes that can’t fix defects can cause cells to become diseased. Even if the new genes can’t fix defects, they can shed light on diseases by giving insight into sick cells. Further research into the cells can also help scientists improve their ability to influence the differentiation of the stem cells.
3. Organ Production and Transplant
A patient’s body cells can combine with an egg cell from an egg donor to create an embryo. This embryo has stem cells that will grow into any special type of organ or tissue cells. Since the stem cells are clones from the patient’s cells, they are genetically identical. This can result in risk-free transplants since the body won’t reject the new cells.
Stem cells don’t only come from an embryo. There are stem cells which also comes from adult cells too. The harvesting of stem cells can be from a variety of body parts in adults and not just from embryos. These somatic stem cells are just as significant in the advancement of stem cell research and therapy.
To learn more about stem cells, visit stemcellresearchers.org!
Do you still have a lot of questions about how to obtain stem cells? Share your thoughts and comments with us in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 31 2018 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.