Stem cells are undifferentiated cells usually taken from fetuses. They have the ability to grow into any type of cell in the body. This is what makes stem cell research so exciting. They could be used to replace diseased or damaged tissue in the body.
Stem cell research holds the promise of curing such diseases and conditions as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, brain damage, and spinal cord injuries as well as potentially helping many other conditions.
But their use has become controversial. Many who oppose abortion believe that the rate of women getting abortions will increase if women are allowed to sell their fetus’s stem cells for research. But that doesn’t have to be the case as the fetal stem cells that are used now are the ones that would ultimatelyy end up in the trash. What a waste.
One area where we have made a small amount of progress is in the realm of adult stem cell research. These are stem cells that are taken from the patient’s own body and turned into cells he can use to fight disease. Just like the fetal cells that carry no risk of rejection, adult stem cells wouldn’t be rejected because they come from the patient’s own body.
The research into adult stem cells was coming along pretty well, but now it seems that there might be a risk in using them. According to Medical News Today: ” Research work carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem arouses a cautionary warning in the growing field of the development of stem cells. The research indicates a possible danger of cancerous tissue development in the use of such cells. “
This cautionary applies to fetal stem cells and even more to adult stem cells. A few years ago, Japanese scientists made the breakthrough in using adult stem cells. But recently, scientists have found chromosomal changes in the cells that could eventually lead to cancer.
It seems that whenever there are changes in human cells, whether caused by tobacco smoke, chemicals, pollution, or genetic manipulation, it can lead to cancer. Now stem cells also fall into that category.
The researchers found that the stem cells weren’t as stable in culture as they previously thought. They will have to re-examine the parameters of that research. The researchers say that the method that they have discovered to detect changes in chromosomes could also have benefits in other cells that go astray, especially cancer cells.
Even with this setback, it’s important that stem cell research goes on. The possibility of curing a large number of diseases is just too important not to.