This is the second part of our discussion on Stem Cells. Part one really broke down the biology of cells. It also looked at Cellular Reproduction. The word from the first part was Mitosis. This second part will examine Stem Cells themselves. The word for this second part is Pluripotent.
ALL of what we’ve talked about takes us back to the Stems Cells, in a sense.
Stem cells, according to the dictionary are thus: Stem cell is a cell that upon division replaces its own numbers and also gives rise to cells that differentiate further into one or more specialized types, as various B cells and T cells.
But what in the world does this mean???
In mammals, there are two different types of stem cells.
1.) Embryonic Stem Cells
2.) Adult Stem Cells
Embryo Stem Cells
This is a specific type of cell starts out as a blastocyst. The blastocyst begins forming after 5 days of fertilization. This is very early and allows the cell to be very useful and special. Often there are around 100 of these cells.
What makes them special boils down to one word….Pluripotent. This is a very complicated term but for a true understanding of stem cells, this must be understood.
Pluripotent cells are different than all other cells.
As mentioned before, once a bone cell is a bone cell, it can’t change. Pluripotent means that this cell has the ability to change. The real word here is Wow!!
This means that it is possible that tissues, organs, and other damaged areas could be improved with the use of stem cells. It is not very hard to find them. They must be taken from the embryo a few days after fertilization. Most research using stem cells comes from either mouse or human.
But currently there are no approved treatments using embryonic stem cells.
Adult Stem Cells
This type of cell can be found in both children and adults. They are different to embryonic stem cells.
These types of stem cells are much harder to find than embryonic stem cells and are very rare. They still have the name of Pluripotent. They are often found in the umbilical cord after a baby’s birth.
A large amount of the research on adult stem cells are aimed to look at the entire ability of adult stem cells and compare them to embryonic stem cells. If a stem cell from the blood is found, it is unlikely to be able to change to bone. But it can help in the many different cells of the blood.
Adult Stem Cells are used for treatment of leukemia and other bone/blood cancers.
As a person ages, there seems to be a more difficult time of finding stem cells. Large reservoirs of stem cell in adults are in the placenta and in the teeth molars around the age of 10. Both areas are looked at for possible expansion of adult stem cell research.
Controversy over Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research is indeed very controversial. The primary reason is embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cell treatment and research is of little concern or problems. But it is also much harder to do. But when controversy is discussed about embryos and how they are used, obtained, and much more. The meter on the debate rises quickly and with force.
The possibility of treatment with stem cells is endless. But the overall mechanism is still largely under debate. Therefore, when discussion or thinking about the topic, remember, there is a large difference between Adult and Embryonic Stem cells. So, just because some says stem cells are bad or good, its best to understand what they exactly are referring to.
Additional food for thought is just recently, stem cells from endangered species are being looked at for animals. This could be a breakthrough in saving endangered species of animals.
If additional research is done, stem cells could advance treatment in so many areas of life. The controversy will always be there, you are now free to decide where you sit. And that is quite important.