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Stem Cells

This one of the areas in which I want to do research in as a career after University. Doing research has been a passion of mine for quite some time now. I am driven by a self-interest of finding knowledge (not to be mistaken for fame). As you know, if you are interested in something then you go out of your way to find out the most that you can about it. This precisely what I have done with the topic of "Stem Cells" and I thought that I should share with you the potential that lies in this field of research. I do not wish to start a "Ethical Debate" on this subject, but my intent is merely to explain to you want I have discovered throughout my readings.

Q: What are Stem Cells?

A: Stem Cells undergo mitotic cell division in order to duplicate themselves. The major importance with these cells is their ability to differentiate into any specific cell that are found in your body.

There are two types of Stem Cells:
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Adult Stem Cells

Brief Definition:

Embryonic Stem Cells: Are found in the inner mass of an early stage (4-5 days) embryo known as the blastocyst. They are able to differentiate themselves into the three primary germ layers (endoderm, ectoderm, mesoderm). This means that they have an extremely vast amount of cells that they can differentiate themselves into. The term attributed to this is called pluripotent.

Adult Stem Cells: Are found in the body after embryonic development. They are undifferentiated cells, meaning that they only serve as one purpose and that is to regenerate all specific kind of cells related to that organ in which they are found. For example, if you cut yourself, adult stem cells in charge of your skin will be regenerating skin cells to repair the wound. This one of the disadvantages of adult stem cells is that they are good at what they do but there functions are very limited (depending on what kind of cells that you need). The term attributed to this is mulitpotent.

The main point of my Introduction to Stem Cells is to show you how this research is the future of medicine.

By 2010, over 2 million Americans are projected to contract end-stage renal disease, at an aggregate cost of $1 trillion. In 2001, nearly 80,000 people needed organ transplants, fewer than 24,000 got them, and 6,000 died waiting. Of those receiving organs, 40 percent die within the first three years after surgery.

Cancer kills one out of four of us, more than 1,500 people a day.
Much of the promise behind Stem Cells in that they will be able to replace parts of the body that are worn out by age, injury, or infirmity. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet since the methods of acquiring Stem Cells isn't perfect. Ideally we would want to have a Stem Cell Bank, stored in genetic matches. Thus, when a patient suffers from Heart failure, we would simply inject him with multipotent Stem Cells to grow new cardiac tissue.

There wouldn't be a need for many of the transplants anymore. More patients could be saved this way. Only thing is that research takes time and the "projected" time frame where we will start seeing Stem Cell Therapy is in 2014.

Hopefully this has given you a little more understanding as to some of the research that is happening today in areas, such as Stem Cells.


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