The practice of using stem cells out of embryos is one of the well-known methods of stem cell therapy. Stem cells are some of the most valuable types of cells in the body. They are also essential for disease treatment. They can help a person recover from an injury. but where do they come from? Many people have misconceptions about embryonic stem cells. Yet, it is important to understand where they come from.
Extracting Stem Cells out of Embryos for Treatments
In This Article:
- Why Are These Stems So Valuable?
- How Researchers Extract Embryonic Stem Cells out of Embryos
- Without Destroying the Embryo
- What About Non-Embryonic Stem Cells?
Why Are These Stems So Valuable?
Stem cells are building blocks within the body. These cells are very unique. They are the only type of cell in the body capable of turning into any tissue. Most cells in the body cannot do this. Rather, they can only replicate into the same type of cell. A muscle cell can only become another muscle cell. When a lung cell replicates, it can only create other lung cells. Stem cells do not follow this rule. Rather, they become the tissue near to them. This is why they help heal.
For this healing to happen, doctors need to have access to stem cells. One way to do this is with human embryonic stem cells. These cells are very special. They have a nearly unlimited ability to help with healing and development. These master cells are at their very best in this unborn age. Some researchers refer to them as nearly immortal. This is because they can develop and remain present long term. They can form any cell in the body.
Imagine what this may mean with human embryonic stem cells having the ability to become any other cell in the body. Consider a person with a condition such as leukemia, a life-threatening condition. Modern treatment may include chemotherapy. It may also include intense medication therapy. However, doctors can take human embryonic stem cells and apply them to the area. When they do this, the stem cells go to work. They work to heal the existing, damaged cells in the area. They also work to replicate. And, when they do, they become healthy cells. This allows the body to remove the unhealthy leukemia cells.
With so many benefits, it may seem this method is ideal. It is still a very new type of advancement. Researchers continue to develop the methods for using this type of treatment. But, first, they have to have access to them.
How Researchers Extract Embryonic Stem Cells out of Embryos
Where do they come from? The simple answer is human embryos. Scientists take stem cells out of embryos during the developmental stage. This occurs prior to the embryo implanting into the uterus. The fertilization of an egg happens. Then, during the next few days, the embryo moves into the uterus. Generally, it will implant into the side of the uterus and start growing. Before this happens, the embryo has nothing but stem cells. These stem cells can become any part of the baby. And, in fact, they will help in the development of every part of the child. Once they implant, the process uses up the stem cells. While still there, they are depleted of some of their abilities.
In a lab, scientists are able to remove the stem cells before this happens. They are able to extract human embryos prior to implantation. In a lab, they can then capture the cells to use for development. In this environment, the stem cells can multiply. They will continue to replicate themselves without limit. And, without implantation, they maintain all of the ability to develop into any other cell type. They are most valuable at this time.
Without Destroying the Embryo
Researchers are always looking for new ways to access stem cells. The ultimate goal is to gather these cells as early as possible. This is when they are most powerful. Some researchers were able to remove a single stem cell from a mouse without damaging the embryo. They can take this single stem cell and allow it to replicate.
In this case, the method used is much like what doctors do during in vitro fertilization. During this procedure, doctors can remove a single cell. They can then gather information from that cell. This includes information about the overall health of the cell. But, in this case, they can save the stem cells present. They can then use those stem cells to create new ones.
What About Non-Embryonic Stem Cells?
There is some concern about using embryonic stem cells. Since they come from human embryos, they can develop into a child. But, researchers are working on new methods. They can access adult stem cells, for example. In addition, it is also possible to obtain stem cells from the umbilical cord. Both methods do not interfere with child development.
Doctors can obtain stem cells from any person as well. They still lurk in the body long after development. They are in the body’s bone marrow. Doctors can extract them from body fat. They can also extract them from the muscles of the body and the blood. These stem cells are less vibrant than those from an embryo. They remain very useful in treatment and injury repair. The difference is they may require a long period of time to work. They also may require multiple treatments to achieve the desired outcome.
Know more about using stem cells out of embryos from this TED-Ed video.
In all cases, stem cells are a valuable tool. Researchers are using them to heal a variety of illnesses. They can also help in many types of injuries. Science continues to develop new options. They are also working to find ways to access stem cells more effectively. Over time, this may become the best method for treatment of illness. There is no risk of rejection. There is not a long downtime. And, there are no painful procedures. Doctors do not have to use chemicals and drugs to help a patient. Rather, they gain access through the body’s building blocks. For many, this is an exciting opportunity to heal and become well again.
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