There’s been a lot of buzz lately about stem cells. But what are these cells and why are scientists and researchers so excited about them? The main reason they are important is due to the fact that they have the potential to develop into many different cell types. They are basically classified as an internal repair system. One of the amazing things about these cells is that after they split they can actually turn into a more specialized cell. Examples of some of those cells include brain cells, muscle, even red blood cells. They are truly an asset to the human body.
The growth and the dividing of stem cells means the body has the ability to repair itself. It can replace damaged tissues with healthy tissue. And the cells will continue to renew themselves as long as the human body is alive. However, they do have limitations. For example, stem cells that reside in the gut are limited to proliferating there and replicating the cells that are made to carry out the processes in that specific area. Another example is bone marrow cells. Stem cells in that area will create healthy bone marrow, something that could be lifesaving to someone suffering from a life threatening illness that affects the bone marrow.
The cells are classified as embryonic stem cells and non embryonic. Embryonic cells are developed in vitro in a laboratory with eggs and sperm from donors. Non embryonic (adult stem cells) ones are cells that are already in the body. Researchers are curious to see the capabilities of adult stem cells and how the can be cultivated and used to replace damaged cells in the event of injury or disease. They want to determine whether or not there’s a possible great future in curing illnesses that currently require extensive or painful treatment that doesn’t always yield the best results.
Researchers and doctors are hopeful these specialized cells can be used to treat diseases such as macular degeneration, heart disease, diabetes, and even strokes. Treating conditions such as spinal cord injury, burns, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is also being researched with hopeful results. And scientists have made great strides in the last 20 years or so – but there is much more work to be done.