Stem cells, bone marrow: News and research |

Posted: January 20, 2015 at 11:46 pm

The face of health care keeps on getting a makeover with each passing day, the result being the availability of newer solutions to the problems that have nagged mankind for centuries. Stem cell research as regards the condition of pregnancy in women has yielded some special results in the recent past. Stem cells have been pretty aptly named, as these are the holding blocks of human life. These cells build the human body and play an important role in the treatment of ravaging diseases like childhood leukemia and some cancer conditions. Apart from this, stem cells have been the center of attraction as far as contemporary pregnancy related medical research is concerned, with conclusive evidence for scientists to believe that stem cells can also be employed in successfully tackling several diseases in the distant future of a human life.

The relation between stem cells and pregnancy is pretty evident from the fact that in just a matter of nine months, stem cells let the embryo progress into a grown baby! These stem cells are mostly found in appreciable counts in the blood flowing through the umbilical cord. The contribution to disease treatment results from the practice of harvesting stem cells at the time of the birth of the baby, separating them from the blood samples, deep storing them for periods as long as two decades and then using these stored stem cells as and when the concerned person falls prey to a disease through the course of his/her lifetime.

During the pregnancy when a woman is 10 weeks pregnant and especially in the last stages of pregnancy, they have some blood tests conducted on them so that the medical experts can determine whether the babys stem cells would be healthy enough to be stored. Also, the medical examiners and analysts have to determine whether there would be chances of cross contamination of blood samples and decide thereafter. Generally, these tests are conducted around a month before the expected delivery date of the child. If the doctors opine that storage of the stem cells of the baby would be fine, then the stem cell storage company you pick sends in a sterile collection kit. Your midwife uses this kit to collect blood from the umbilical cord. This sample is sent over to the laboratory where the stem cells are separated from the blood, frozen and stored as per the established guidelines.

Pregnant ladies find a lot of comfort in the thought that a little consideration at the time of pregnancy could help them guard their babies against the possibilities of being afflicted by serious diseases in the future. Naturally, stem cell storage banks are required to store the babys stem cells for such a long period. The fact that the few cells taken from the babys cord blood can possibly save the life of the baby, a sibling and even the parents at some point in time in the future means that stem cell banks are flourishing. Among the diseases that stored stem cells can work against are acute leukemias, autoimmune diseases, chronic leukemias, congenital immune system disorders and histiocrytic disorders.

Stem cells hold much promise in bringing about medical breakthroughs in form of treatment for previously incurable diseases and conditions like cancer, Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease or paralysis. These blank cells are capable of self-rejuvenation and also transforming into a functional cell; it is these attributes of a stem cell that make them invaluable to scientists. However, to experiment on the stem cells, they must at first be obtained and the mode of collection is where the controversy originates. There are two main types of stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. In order to collect the pluripotent embryonic stem cells, the human embryo must be killed as it can only be extracted from the innermost cellular layers of the blastocyst after just four days of fertilization. It is therefore not hard to understand as why killing a human embryo, which could have otherwise been borne as a human baby, is considered equivalent to murder by a lot of people. Even people who would not go as far as calling it murder, usually admit to the procedure being disturbing in terms of ethics at least.

Adult stem cells come from various sources and contrary to what the name may suggest, it does not only come from fully grown human beings. It is just that they are comparatively grown and different than the embryonic stem cells. The placenta and the umbilical cord blood are both rich sources of adult stem cells, the former being even richer than the latter. Our bone marrow contains multipotent stem cells and it is possible to extract these cells clinically, but the procedure is immensely painful for the donor and may even be considered risky. Unlike the extraction of the embryonic stem cells, extracting adult stem cells is not controversial. Ethicists do not support the killing of an embryo for the sake of medical progress, however bright the future may seem, but bio ethicists do understand the importance of stem cell experimentation and thus do not consider extraction of adult stem cells from various sources to be unethical as long as it is agreed upon voluntarily by the donor or the guardian of the concerned source.

If the question is read as an inquiry to the origin and the natural location of stem cells, then the answer would be that it comes from various tissues of the human body. Stem cells in an adult human being are found in the heart, blood, bone marrow, skeletal muscles, skin and fat as well. After a baby is born, the placenta and the umbilical cord are also found to be rich in stem cells. The placenta however, is much richer in stem cell count than the umbilical cord blood. Embryonic stem cells are among the first cells to develop because it is these that construct all the other tissues and thus the organs, bones, nerves and everything else in our body eventually, by converting into specifically functional cells.

The key factor about stem cells is that they are capable of constant rejuvenation through mitotic cell division and since they are not functional cells, they can transform into any specific type of functional cell, depending on the requirement of the body. Studies related to the possible uses of stem cells in various medical procedures is achieving greater importance with every passing year as scientists keep publishing journals on how the progress is going to improve treatment facilities dramatically. From the ability to repair almost any damaged organ to eliminating previously incurable diseases like cancer or Parkinsons disease, it all seems to be in our reach in the near future. In order for the experiments to be successful, scientists must collect necessary amounts of stem cells from various sources. Embryonic stem cells are collected directly from the inside of the blastocyst, roughly a week or so after the egg cell is fertilized, and it is for that reason it is called unethical and have given rise to controversies regarding the extraction of embryonic stem cells. The germline tissues of the abandoned fetus are also a source of stem cell collection. Umbilical cord blood and placenta are the two other sources for collecting adult stem cells. Although not as pluripotent as the stem cells inside an embryo, the adult stem cells are also extracted by scientists from tissues and bone marrow of individuals for different purposes.

Magnetic stem cells are one of the latest breakthroughs in the field of medical science as they are believed to hold the potential for next generation cell-level treatment procedures. Stem cells would soon be injected into the patients blood stream to treat and cure heart diseases and vascular problems and the theory is to deliver the special stem cells to the area of the injury or disease by guiding them from outside. The magnetism of the cells is what will allow the experts to control the movement of the reparative cells with the help of magnets, once they are injected into the patients body. Scientists have already been successful at directing the magnetized stem cells to the exact area of damage in animals, but the technology is yet to be tried on human beings.

The first part of the procedure involves applying sufficient magnetic nanoparticles on the stem cells to magnetize them, and thus make them controllable. Secondly, these special stem cells are now inserted into the blood stream of the subject with the help of an injection. The final and the most important part of the medical procedure begins next as experts now try to control the direction of the injected magnetic stem cells with the help of a magnet in order to lead them towards the accurate area of the heart damage or anywhere else inside the vascular system for recovery. MRI scans in the USA make use of the same nanomagnets to attain better results already. It is to be noted that the use of magnetic stem cells has a very broad spectrum as far as medical prowess is concerned. From cell therapy to targeting cancerous growths, the scope of using the nanomagnets on stem cells is plenty for repairing the diseased and the injured tissues from inside the body.

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Stem cells, bone marrow: News and research |

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