Stem cells have been recognized since the early 1900’s and over the last century scientists around the world have been working to identify just how they can benefit the human body when implanted in certain areas. Progress is slow moving and there is resistance from religious groups surrounding the controversy of embryonic stem cells but the year 2013 is going to see new advancements made to further the regenerative studies.
Stem cells are unique because they are pluripotent, which means that they are able to differentiate, or develop, into any of the 200 cell types that are found in the human body. All they need to do is be told where to go and what to do by stimulation. These play an important part in the embryo when the human body is growing and need cells to grow into different parts of the fetus’ system. Scientists are now using these cells to help fight trauma patients as well as those suffering from diseases.
New Ways Of Treatment
When an embryo is starting to develop a brain it contains neural stem cells. These stem cells can be injected into patients who suffer from degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, or Multiple Sclerosis. Treatment is being done this year by injecting these neural stem cells into the spinal cord of the patients to help correct the nervous system by allowing signals to pass through from muscles to brain.
This is a giant step for patients suffering from paraplegia and quadriplegia either from birth or accident. Autologous transplants are occurring too, where the patients will be injected the stem cells from their own bone marrow back into their spine to accomplish the same purpose. This type of injection is more ethically preferred to potentially avoid harming embryos. Stem cell researchers across the globe are focusing on this new advancement.
Repairing Eyesight And Tissue Regeneration
Human embryonic stem cells will also be tested to see if they can restore vision in patients suffering from age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Stem cells can be manipulated to turn into the cells affected by AMD. AMD slowly corrupts the vision of the patient as they age so that it progressively gets worse with each passing day. The hope for the stem cells is that they will replicate the cells of the retinal pigment epithelium and the photoreceptors in the eyes of a clinical set of patients. This will not restore sight to patients who have already lost it, but hopefully stop the degeneration of the disease at an early stage to prevent it from getting worse.
Stem cells can also be used to regenerate damaged tissues. Scientists in England are studying the ways stem cells can help restore cartilage and muscle tissue. Stem cells found in the umbilical cord are mixed with another molecule that is necessary for healing wounds and producing cartilage. Human cartilage tissue is a complicated issue because it does not contain blood vessels or nerves and this causes problems when it comes to regrowth. There are various surgeries and procedures to help but are not 100 per cent successful.
Most doctors will say that these procedures have not been fully tested and that definitive results should not be expected. However, with more and more testing knowledge is being gained and the research is being progressed so patients can be hopeful for the future.
This is a guest post by Claire Wilson, an aspiring freelance writer from the UK who currently represents Fertile Future.