Most people are aware of the controversy and ethical debate surrounding stem cells, but what exactly are they and how are they used?
What are stem cells?
Stem cells can be regarded as unformatted or undeveloped cells. Through natural processes, they eventually evolve into specific types such as bone or brain cells. When harvested before this transformation occurs, they can be developed artificially and used for medical research and the treatment of disease. Currently stem cells are sourced from human embryos, umbilical cords, and more recently adult tissues.
How can stem cells help us?
Stem Cells grown in the laboratory can be used to regenerate or replace tissues damaged through disease or injury. The effects of illness and accidents need no longer be permanent.
- Diseases such as cancer result from problems with the natural cell forming processes, through stem cell research scientists will be able to identify why this happens and what to do about it.
- Cells made to replicate diseased tissue can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new pharmaceuticals. More ethical and reliable than current testing procedures, this is great news for both people and animals everywhere.
- Understanding the reasons for the decline of stem cells during the ageing process may provide the key to remaining healthier into old age.