Medical Magic Through Stem Cells

 

This is our official entry post for the Apollo Modern Day Healthcare contest on Indiblogger.

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Changing the face of medicine as we know it, stem cells have come along, ready to transform the way human beings live their lives. Hard facts, painstaking research and plenty of smart ideas have made it possible for stem cells to address almost all human illnesses and veritably provide a cure that, like magic, completely eliminates the ailment in question. There are talks of cancers, aids viruses, blindness, heart troubles (and several more) meeting extinction thanks to the advances medicine has made along stem cell routes.

For those of you who remember, stem cells were singularly responsible for the whole cloning controversy, especially with Dolly the sheep who, on being cloned, met with more public ire than praise. As with all new and unfamiliar things, we sense fear and tread with caution when faced with unknowns like this. Yes, stem cells can be used for bad but its good uses far outweigh that. With the right laws and organizations set up, stem cells can alter human lives in incredible ways. Check out what’s been achieved so far…

Embryonic stem cells are the foundation-stones of this idea, because these cell types can become any cell present inside the human body let alone comprising it, including skin. Sounds supernatural? It’s actually factual. Human embryos being the source of this particular cell type has met with ethical, technical and also funding challenges, when the only means to get started with full-on work is an alternative source.

Enter, cloning, where the scientific principles used therein have been used to successfully create human stem cells. With that move, scientists have opened the corridors that lead to the creation of embryonic human stem cells. And with those cells, the sky’s the limit. New hearts and even brains can be grown in lab-specific conditions, whole limbs can be wonderfully regenerated and cures being but a vaccine away with, say, a tumor promising to be gone in as little time as the flu. But all that takes time, effort, willpower, funding, and a global desire to have humans evolve to the next stage of life.

Often touted as the building blocks of the human body, stem cells come in three varieties. The Embryonic ones, sourcing from the fetus, umbilical cord blood and embryo itself and, depending on time of harvesting, can be used in myriad ways. Adult stem cells, despite their name, are found in infants, kids as well as adults, specifically growing in the developed heart, kidney and brain tissues. Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) are purely found in adults, capable of being experimentally re-programmed into cells similar to stem cells.

stem cells

Well, that’s all very good, knowing there are three distinct stem cell options to tap into, but what has been really achieved with them?

Since 1998, when Dr. James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin (and his team with him) isolated, for the very first time, embryonic stem cells, nobody thought that in a matter of years so many more achievements will be made, with proof of that boast coming the very next year, in 1999, when researchers working with Parkinson’s disease utilized a patient’s adult stem cells to produce a 62% percent increase in dopamine uptake. Not only that, they also got a 40-50% gain in certain motor tasks, which is more than any other medical discovery has been able to do for Parkinson’s before this time.

Then 2002 came along and a competent study recorded how bone marrow stromal cells are really an accessible as well as expandable cell-source, promising a sound future for spinal cord repair. Decisive evidence came when a patient with Parkinson’s was treated with their own neural stem cells and registered a more than 80% reduction in symptoms.

The years have indeed been kind to stem cell research with Parkinson’s being one of the main to-be-cured diseases. Plenty of incredible progress is being made at every stage of the game, more than even Rudolf Jaenisch could have foretold—he’s the man who first produced patient-specific stem cells for Parkinson’s disease and also a professional who focuses on biological mechanisms affecting genetic information and the way it’s converted into cell structures but don’t alter them while doing so.

The implications for progress and evolution are immeasurable.

Eminent names in the medical field have made breathtaking discoveries. Robert Weinberg (founding member of Whitehead Institute and pioneer in cancer research) found breast cells spontaneously changing into stem cell-like states, meaning they can become healthy breast cells and eliminate the cancerous tumors present in their midst. Other cancers face similar annihilation levels as time goes by and enhanced research is being performed by the best minds in the world.

Is there enough to go around, for further research and potential mass production? Harvey Lodish (a highly respected leader in the fields of cellular and developmental biology) multiplied human blood stem cells 20-fold in culture, so the answer is a satisfactory yes.

modern healthcare

From therapeutic cloning to the regeneration of whole organs, from internal as well as external disease-elimination and consequent cures for them, and not to forget the future of human bodies and how we can become more than we are at present, think on higher levels, function at our physical optimum and stave off the affectations of several things, including the ones age takes from us, stem cells have a lot in store for humanity, something that can only be termed medical magic.

Comments

  1. Very informative post Joshua
    Best of Luck for the Contest !!

    • Thanks so much… Let’s hope that post actually leaves an impact in the scientific world so funds go to all the right scientists and organizations… :D

  2. Good luck for the contest!

  3. Very Interesting and informative! Hoping it achieves more developments
    All the best for the contest :)

  4. Thanks for bringing up this lovely topic to the public’s attention. All the best for the contest.
    Here’s my entry : http://www.godyears.net/2013/05/sir-your-patient-is-ready-morton.html

    • Ty Roshan. I enjoyed reading your entry about modern day concepts of Anaesthesia. I liked the way you had a story-like flow, taking the reader through past approaches before you got to the modern ones. Cool work, good luck to you too, for the contest… :D

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