Embryonic Stem Cells Used for Research
As Nature put it, “Embryonic stem cells provide unparalleled information on early development. Like astronomers looking back to the Big Bang for fundamental insight about the Universe,” biologists study these cells, with its many forms and functions.
Many different cells type
Researchers are understanding how to create many different specialized cell types by exposing embryonic stem cells to different molecules and conditions. In that way, embryonic stem cells can be used as “successful tools for both research and regenerative medicine because they can produce limitless numbers of themselves for continued research or clinical uses,” according to the NlH
Human embryonic stem cells are pluripotent cells, meaning cells that can make any other cell in the body. They are made from cells found in very early human embryos called blastocysts.
The stem cells are developed from embryos that are three to five days old. At that point, it’s called blastocyst and has about 150 cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. They are known as pluripotent stem cells, “meaning they can divide into more stem cells or can become any type of cell in the body. This versatility allows embryonic stem cells to be used to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs.”
Embryonic Stem Cell in Research
The cells used in embryonic stem cell do not come from aborted fetuses as many people think. When people undergo in-vitro fertilization, the embryos not used for fertilization are frozen until a woman needs them to become pregnant. Often there are more embryos than what is used. The owners of the embryos have the option of destroying them or donating them for stem cell research.
Human embryonic cells used in research come from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst at the embryonic stage which happens within five days of fertilization. While ESC cells have the potential to form all somatic (biological cells that form the body of an organism) tissue, they cannot create the other tissues needed for complete development. Therefore, they cannot create a whole individual.
Embryonic stem cells are primitive and unspecialized, so they can specialize (differentiate) into cells needed to create tissue. They are referred to as pluripotent because they can form into any cells for any tissue in the body. Also, embryonic stem cells can clone themselves and divide.
Great potential to understand disease
Stem cells have the potential to help thwart disease in many different areas of health and medical research. One of the reasons is that they can help scientists understand why cells do what they do, and also become involved in serious diseases, such as cancer. By transforming into many specialized cells, stem cells have many possibilities that can help scientists explore different diseases and understand what may go wrong in the cell process.
“The proliferation and developmental potential of human (ES) cell promises an essentially unlimited supply of specific cell types for basic research and for transplantation therapies for diseases ranging from heart disease to Parkinson’s disease to leukemia,” says NIH. It adds, “They will support basic research on differentiation and function of human tissues and provide material for testing that may improve the safety and efficacy of human drugs.”
For instance, cell-derived heart cells may be useful in identifying health-helping drugs even before they are (determined valuable) in clinical trials, and lead to “safer and more effective treatments.”
Replacing donated tissue?
In that way, the application of these cells may replace the need for donated organs or tissues, which are often used to replace cells that are destroyed, for instance, or damaged.
“Unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant far exceeds the number of organs available for transplantation,” according to NIH. “Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewal source of replacement cells” for a myriad of diseases, not only Parkinson’s disease, but amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, burns, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.
Status of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
One of the main goals in ESC research is looking to control and unlock the key that makes undifferentiated stem cells turn into differentiated cells that can form specific tissue and organs. Learning how to direct the differentiation of ESCs reliably could lead to breakthroughs in treating many diseases.
Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, a notable stem cell scientist who coauthored the book Stem Cell for Dummies, studies the clinical applications of ESC for these and other types of neurogenerative diseases. He says that after ten years of research clinical applications and human clinical trials are close to happening.
Dr. Goldstein also explains that while there are other types of stem cells being studied for their potential to treat diseases, it's crucial for the scientific community to have a vast resource of options because of the complexity of stem cells, the time, and money it takes to develop therapies.
There are living cells that are cited as potential major scientific tools to study disease for significant research – and they can potentially live forever. These cells are what researchers call embryonic stem cells, and they are the focus of intense scientific scrutiny.
Embryonic Stem Cells may help lives for a lifetime.
EuroStem Cell. Embyronic Stem cells and where they come from and what they can do. 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.eurostemcell.org
Junying Yu, James A. Thornton. National Institutes of Health. Stem Cell Information. 2018. Retrieved from: https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/faqs.htm#success
David Cyranoski. Nature. How human embryonic stem cells sparked a revolution. 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-03268-4
Science Daily. Embryonic Stem Cell. 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/
Mayo Clinic. Stem cells: what they are and what they do. Retrieved from: mayoclinic.org
Wert, Guido de, Mummery, Christine. Human embryonic stem cells: research, ethics and policy (April 01, 2003). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/humrep
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