Evaluating the Benefits of Stem Cell Research (Column) | Local voices


In 2018, 9.5 million people died of cancer and by 2040 that number is expected to rise to 16.4 million people. Almost every family has been affected by cancer, and scientists are doing all they can to find a cure.

In recent years, there have been advances in the field of regenerative medicine using stem cells. Stem cells can be used to repair and replace damaged tissue. Stem cells are the most promising advance in the treatment of cancer, as well as other destructive diseases. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease cause extreme pain and suffering in many people, and stem cells can reduce and even suppress this pain.

In the field of drugs, one wrong ingredient can potentially have devastating consequences. Thus, testing these drugs on something other than a living human being is essential to ensure the safety of the drug. Stem cells are an alternative, as they are derived from human cells. Cells can accurately show what drugs will do inside the body. For example, when testing how a drug affects a nerve, a scientist can induce a stem cell to become a nerve cell, thus giving that scientist the ability to see how the drug affects that type of cell. Stem cells give this field of medicine a versatile weapon in the fight against disease.

Medicines have been used to try to treat heart disease and other degenerative diseases, but stem cells offer an innovative form of treatment for these diseases. Stem cells can enter damaged part of the tissue to repair and replace the tissue. In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers attempted to treat damaged hearts with infusion of stem cells. They injected each patient with stem cells from their heart, and after a year the scar tissue had shrunk by 50%. Harvard Health explained this phenomenon in an article: “Once in place, stem cells help regenerate damaged heart tissue. ”

Likewise, stem cells can also treat Parkinson’s disease by helping the brain repair itself by generating new brain cells. The promise stem cells give to the field of regenerative medicine is great and should not be thrown away. It could be the next big medical breakthrough and have huge potential to cure degenerative diseases.

The most deadly disease is cancer. While some treatments like chemotherapy can prolong life and in some cases beat cancer, for far too many people this is not the result. Stem cells are used to help fight certain types of cancer like leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and multiple myeloma, and have the potential to treat other forms.

The process of treating these cancers is called a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. The procedure takes the cancerous and destroyed cells and replaces them with healthy stem cells. Stem cells are also used to replace tissue damaged by chemotherapy. When a person receives chemotherapy, the radiation helps kill cancer, but also kills some healthy cells. Stem cells can replace these damaged cells.

Despite these many promising uses for stem cell research, a negative stigma surrounds the research because people believe it uses aborted fetuses to acquire stem cells. However, the stem cells come from a lab and were not implanted inside a uterus. This type of stem cell is called an embryonic stem cell and comes from 4 to 5 day old blastocysts, the most versatile and promising stem cell. They can grow into any other type of cell and are unlikely to be rejected.

Adult stem cells, however, can be rejected by the immune system. Adult stem cells are also less flexible, not being able to change as easily as an embryonic stem cell. Embryonic stem cells come from unused embryos from an in vitro fertilization clinic. These stem cells will either be thrown away or put in the freezer and probably never used, so the owners of these embryos will donate them to be used for stem cells. Donors must give their consent before the cells are used for science, keeping the research ethical.

Stem cell research has many advantages. The medical power of stem cells should not be ignored and put aside.

Cole Ployd is in grade 11 at Dayspring Christian Academy.

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