How Are Regenerative Therapies Beginning to Rebuild and Restore Function to Injured Body Parts? Term Paper

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Regenerative Therapies

Though the media attention paid to stem cell research has waned somewhat in the face of economic crises and other political issues, the medical innovation that holds the promise to repair damages spinal cords, provide custom-made organs for transplantation, and cure any number of diseases remains an exciting and controversial topic in the worlds of medicine and of ethics. Derived until recently only from embryos necessarily destroyed in the extraction process, stem cells have the unique ability to become any specialized type of cell in the body -- they are essentially blanks that have not yet been assigned a place or task within the organism to which they belong. This unique feature grants them substantial rehabilitative powers that research scientists and physicians are only now beginning to unlock.

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Though perhaps the most promising area of research currently in existence in the filed, stem cells represent just one of several different regenerative therapies currently under development, examination, and/or application. These therapies allow damaged or destroyed tissue to be repaired or re-grown, not simply alleviating or treating the symptoms created by tissue damage and/or loss but actually eliminating underlying issues in many instances by replacing areas of damage with brand new and healthy tissue. This means fewer required medications, operations, and other procedures, leading to fewer side effects and, in some cases, reductions in medical costs. Regeneration reverses problems and lets the body heal itself (albeit with some outside assistance), and this is preferable to many procedures that only provide artificial "fixes."

Stem Cells and other Regenerative Therapies

Term Paper on How Are Regenerative Therapies Beginning to Rebuild and Restore Function to Injured Body Parts? Assignment

The opposite of regeneration is degeneration, and which humans begin undergoing virtually a birth and unquestionably after they have reached adulthood. Cells in the body begin to die and are not replaced as quickly or as efficiently as they used to be, and the risk of malfunction and true tissue loss increases with age and with injury. Simple aging is noticeable only because of its degenerative effects, and, "until we can address the root causes of age-related degeneration, we must learn how to regenerate every part of the human body" (Longevity Meme par. 4). The use of stem cells provides a method for achieving this regeneration, possibly reversing the effects of aging when applied in a full-body manner. Though techniques have not yet been developed to utilize stem cells in a direct reversal of the aging process, specific applications of tissue regeneration and of slowing the natural degenerative processes have been successful in the limited trials they have received.

More than this, however, stem cells can be used to repair damage caused by injuries or the growth of abnormal tissue brought about by congenital defects. The fact that stem cells can develop into any specialized cell in the human body means that those that have suffered spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis may eventually regain the full use and control of their bodies -- stem cells can become spinal tissue, reconnecting broken pathways and restoring nerve function. This application of stem cells leads to a great deal of excitement in the research community and among patients and the general public, as well.

Stem cells do not represent the only regenerative therapy in existence, however, and there are other methods that are specific to certain organs or areas of the body that have proven equally effective. A number of therapies have also been developed and described for repairing the myocardium -- the middle layer of the heart tissue that supplies a great deal of the muscular power necessary to the heart's proper functioning -- allowing for true recovery from heart disease and heart attacks rather than simply diminishing risks that are brought on by lifestyle choices and other factors. As of now, none of these therapies has become widely enough used to provide statistically significant evidence that they can be used to seriously combat heart disease and prevent deaths from myocardial issues, but the studies that have been conducted show great promise for making these techniques the new medical standard of tomorrow with great success (Yacoub, Suzuki, & Rosenthal 133-6).

This leads to an interesting ethical situation that must be considered alongside the many virtues of regenerative therapies. The fact that these therapies exist… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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