Assessment: Characteristics and Potential Applications of Stem Cell

Pages: 6 (1687 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Disease  ·  Buy This Paper

Stem cells are non-specializing cells that can be defined by the two very specific properties which are the ability to differentiate into cells with other functions and the ability to self-regenerate. The zygote contains the most valuable of the stem cells and can reproduce as all cell types of a species as shown in Figure 1.

Differentiation of Human Tissues

http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/scireport/chapter1.asp

This paper will examine the stem cell in detail and discuss the potential uses of the stem cell in drug testing and in the treatment of diseases and injuries. The origin and the difference types of cells will be analyzed and explained with as much detail as possible.

The stem cell has been the topic of heated discussions as far as the ethical and political implications in the use of stem cell especially those of embryos in the treatment of diseases. The reason for the use of embryo stem cells can be best addressed by Preeti Kochar in the article, "What are Stem Cells?" which declares,

"The number of stem cells present in an adult is far fewer than the number seen in early development because most of the stem cells have differentiated and multiplied. This makes it extremely difficult to isolate stem cells from an adult organism, which is why scientists hope to use embryonic stem cells for therapy because embryonic stem cells are much easier to obtain" (Kochar, 2004, Stem Cells Section, ¶5).

The debate is essentially in relation to the use of aborted fetuses in the acquisition of the embryo stem cells.

In many tissues, stem cells have the ability to act as a repair mechanism that divides to replenish the damaged cells as long as the host is living. When the stem cell divides and the new cell is formed, it will become a stem cell or a type of specialized such as a brain, muscle, or red blood cell. According to the National Institute of Health:

Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions (Stemcells, 2010, ¶2).

The two types of stem cells ate the embryonic and the adult or "somatic" stem cells. The National Institute of Health defines the differences between the two types of stem cells as:

Human embryonic and adult stem cells each have advantages and disadvantages regarding potential use for cell-based regenerative therapies. One major difference between adult and embryonic stem cells is their different abilities in the number and type of differentiated cell types they can become. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are thought to be limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin (Stemcells, 2010, V. Section, ¶1).

This is the reason for the debate for the use of fetuses.

According to Biotechnologyonline.gov, there are three essential types of stem cells in humans:

a. Embryonic stem cells come from a five to six-day-old embryo. They have the ability to form virtually any type of cell found in the human body.

b. Embryonic germ cells are derived from the part of a human embryo or fetus that will ultimately produce gametes (eggs or sperm).

c. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found among specialized (differentiated) cells in a tissue or organ after birth. Based on current research, adult stem cells appear to have a more restricted ability to produce different cell types and to self-renew than embryonic stem cells.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are used to treat a range of blood disorders and immune system conditions (Types of stem cells, 2010, ¶1).

The stem cells have special terms that designate the function of that type of stem cell:

1. Pluripotent are the stem cells, such as the embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to develop into any of the multi-cell types found in the adult organism.

2. Multipotent are the stem cells, such as adult stem cells, that are able to make only a few different types of cells within the body.

3. Totipotent are the stem cells, such as the fertilized egg, that have the ability to form a new embryo that will develop into another organism.

Godandscience.org declares there are five types of stem cells and are listed below are the areas from which the stem cells can be harvested:

1. Embryonic stem cells - are harvested from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst seven to ten days after fertilization.

2. Fetal stem cells - are taken from the germline tissues that will make up the gonads of aborted fetuses.

3. Umbilical cord stem cells - Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow.

4. Placenta derived stem cells - up to ten times as many stem cells can be harvested from a placenta as from cord blood.

5. Adult stem cells - Many adult tissues contain stem cells that can be isolated (Godandscience.org, 2010).

Stem cells have the potential to regenerate and possibly save the lives of numerous people ranging from cancer to spinal injuries.

One term that is the cause of some debate is the transdifferentation of the human stem cell. Some experiments have been successful in showing the transformation of a stem cell designated for a specialized organ convert or differentiate into the cell of a different lineage.

There are two types of stem cell division: the symmetric cell division which increases their numbers during development and the asymmatric cell division which undergoes self-renewal to give birth to differentiated progeny (Asymmetric Division of Stem Cells, 2010, ¶2).

Tong Yin, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri, and Linheng Li, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, in the May 1, 2006 article, "The Stem Cell Niches in Bone," state, "The stem cell niche is composed of a specialized population of cells that plays an essential role in regulating adult stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. In adults, osteoblasts are responsible for osteogenesis, and hematopoietic cells are responsible for hematopoiesis association within bone marrow," (Yin & Li, 2006, ¶1).

Figure 2. (Jessen, 2008)

The plasticity of the adult stem cell can be classified in the following manner:

1. Haematopoietic stem cells may differentiate into three major types of brain cells (neurons, oligodendrocytes, and astrocytes); skeletal muscle cells; cardiac muscle cells; and liver cells

2. Bone marrow stromal cells may differentiate into: cardiac muscle cells and skeletal muscle cells

3. Brain stem cells may differentiate into: blood cells and skeletal muscle cells (Adult stem cell (Adult stem cell Plasticity and Transdifferentiation, 2010).

Plasticity can also be called the transdifference of the cell.

In regards to the possible disease treatments, the article, Stem Cells and Diseases, from the National Institute of Health website:

"Adult stem cells, such as blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs), are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSCs in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years, and advances in techniques of collecting, or "harvesting" HSCs have been made. HSCs are used to reconstitute the immune system after leukemia, lymphoma or various blood or autoimmune disorders have been treated with chemotherapy" (Stem Cells and Diseases, 2010, ¶5).

Another disease that has the potential to be cured by the use of stem cell is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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