Stem cells are a hot debate topic. You’ve probably seen them in the news or heard commentary on their use. Most of the backlash regarding stem cells comes from a lack of understanding. People who stand up against stem cell research often don’t understand how beneficial these types of treatments are. They also don’t fully comprehend where the stem cells come from.
The expert staff at Epic Healthcare wants to help educate people about the fantastic benefits of stem cells. We feel that stem cell research is a vital component of advancing medical technology to help people heal more efficiently.
The human body is comprised of more than 200 different types of cells. Everything that we are once started as a zygote. This single celled organism rapidly divides until it becomes a blastocyst. This structure contains up to 200 cells that will eventually become every type of cell within the human body.
Many people don’t realize that there are many different stem cells for every tissue and organ in your body. The thing that sets stem cells apart is their ability to copy themselves into specialized cells. Most commonly we hear about embryonic stem cells. This also happens to be where most of the controversy on the subject falls. Embryonic stem cells are collected from a blastocyst. This means they come from a fertilized egg. Most of the fertilized eggs that scientists extract and grow these cells from are donated from patients who’ve undergone in vitro fertilization.
The blastocyst is a hollow ball of cells. It forms less than a week after fertilization and is roughly the size of this period. Successful extraction can only occur under very specific conditions. These cells can become nearly any other cell in the human body, the exceptions being the umbilical cord and placenta. This ability is referred to as being pluripotent. These cells are extremely valuable when it comes to studying cellular development as well as disease.
Embryonic stem cells are not the only available option. Adult, or somatic stem cells also exist. These are tissue specific stem cells. This means they have a limited ability to create various cells. They specifically make cells for the organ or tissue they’re associated with and are unable to generate cells for other organs or tissues throughout the body. In general, these types of stem cells are more widely accepted. They also have been used for quite some time. For example, bone marrow houses stem cells that create platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. However, this is just one example.
Adult stem cells are considered to be multipotent. Meaning that there are limitations on what they are able to become. While these types of cells are still beneficial, they do have their limitations. Often times they are difficult to locate. They also don’t self-renew in laboratory settings as well as embryonic stem cells do. However, scientists continue to research and study this type of stem cell to help understand both development and aging. These types of cells also help us understand how our bodies heal after injury or disease.
Stem cell research has helped us develop a better understanding of how we can treat disease and injury. Bone marrow transplants are a form of regenerative medicine currently in use. These transplants treat leukemia and other health issues. We also see stem cells in action through bone, skin, and tissue grafts. Clinical trials are currently underway to study new and effective ways to use this type of regenerative medicine. However, we’re just on the edge of possibility as far as discoveries go. There’s still much to learn.
As time goes on and science continues to advance and learn more about regenerative medicine, the list of diseases and injuries treated with stem cells will grow. In any case, the most important thing is to have a comprehensive understanding of your specific disease or injury. Understanding the problem is always the first step to finding a solution. Stem cell treatment can be very effective if used properly. Never shy away from asking your health care provider questions about all your possible treatment options.
Our professional staff here at Epic Healthcare & Physical Medicine closely follows stem cell research. We’re happy to have a detailed conversation about your specific disease or injury and if stem cell treatment may be a possibility for you. Remember that treatment options are always advancing. Science continues to help us learn more about the application of stem cell treatment and who it can help. Our patients are our priority and we will do whatever we can to help you lead a great and healthy life.