Stem Cell Technology in Scottsdale, AZ
Stem cell research is among the most fascinating and promising modern medical technologies. Stem cells hold the possibility of treating or even curing as many as 70 different serious illnesses that impact the lives of millions, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, blindness, and HIV/AIDS.
Stem Cells Are the Body’s Basic Building Blocks
- Stem cells possess two special properties—the ability to divide indefinitely and the capability to transform into any kind of cell found in the body.
- When stem cells divide, both of the resulting new cells may either remain as stem cells or change into a different cell type, such as blood, muscle or brain cells.
- Certain stem cells may develop into bone, organ, or other types of tissues while other stem cells work in immunological or reparative roles. Known as “adult” stem cells, the cells act as replacements for other cells damaged by disease, aging, or injury.
- Adult stem cells may be helpful for treatment and research, but many experts insist that embryonic stem cells have a much higher potential for successful application in these areas.
- All stem cells are not created equal.
Adult stem cells are considered to be “multipotent,” meaning that the cells are able to change into any sub-variety of cells within a larger group. For instance, stem cells from bone marrow are able to transform into all types of blood cells. For more than 40 years, funding has been dedicated to studies regarding adult stem cells, helping researchers discover numerous effective and beneficial treatments.
Embryonic stem cells are considered “pluripotent.” These stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell in the body with the exception of sperm and ovum (egg) cells. Embryonic stem cells were initially discovered in 1998, but research has been slow due to lack of funding. Many researchers believe embryonic stem cells carry a much higher potential for effective application than adult stem cells.
- Embryonic stem cells are essentially blank canvases waiting to be turned into more specific cell types. They are located inside blastocysts, a tiny collection of around 150 cells. To the naked eye, a blastocyst appears smaller than a period after a sentence. An ovum develops into this stage approximately five days to two weeks after fertilization occurs.
- Researchers have successfully prompted stem cells to develop into more specialized forms with very specific functions, such as pancreatic tissue cells for diabetics or cardiac tissue cells for people with heart disease.
- A cutting-edge process known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), which may also be called “therapeutic cloning,” allows researchers to create embryonic stem cells without fertilizing an ovum with a sperm. Using this method, implantation into a uterus is unnecessary, so there is no pregnancy. The method effectively eliminates the main ethical issues often associated with embryonic stem cells.
- Using the new technique, researchers expect they will be able to create new lines of cells that are unique to individual patients or conditions. The technique will allow them to study many diseases more effectively and devise improved methods of treating or curing them.
Stem Cell Research Is Developing Breakthrough Cures and Offering New Hope
- Stem cell treatments have already been successful in saving lives and are used widely in the treatment of certain diseases. For instance, stem cells are the basis of bone marrow transplants for the treatment of leukemia.
- Stem cell research may pave the way toward treatments that save millions of people and help improve the everyday lives of millions of others.
- Researchers are currently trying to develop a variety of therapeutic strategies based on stem cells. “Tissue patches” have already been developed to aid burn patients. Islet cells, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, have been created as a way to address diabetes. Researchers have also successfully produced normal brain cells from stem cells, which can help combat the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. What’s more, scientists have been able to genetically alter cells to become carriers that deliver protective or healing agents into damaged or diseased parts of the body.