Unveilling stem cells

Posted: June 16, 2012 at 12:22 am

Unveilling stem cells

LAWRENCE SERETSE Correspondent

Cryo-Save, the European company that intends to establish the first stem cell bank in Botswana says stem cells do not have just one function. They can themselves become or create other types of cells such as blood cells, brain cells, tissue cells, muscle cells and the like. Stem cells can be found in every person but they are much more numerous in the body of a foetus.

There are three types of stem cell banking namely, the baby stem cell banking which is the preservation and storage of cord blood and umbilical cord tissue. Adult stem cell banking is the preservation and storage of peripheral blood (from blood stream for bone marrow transplants) and fatty tissue stem cells.

The reproductive cell banking deals with the preservation and storage of eggs and sperm for future fertility treatments or artificial insemination purposes. Studying stem cells helped humans understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialised cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are caused by problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development has allowed scientists to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions. Many support stem cell research because it has the potential to provide solutions to a wide variety of medical conditions and diseases.

Stem cell research could even lead to a cure for some of the most traumatic injuries and diseases. Stem cell treatments cure over 70 diseases and disorders like Leukemia, Lymphoma, blood cancers, bone marrow disorders like Aplastic anaemia, sickle cell, Diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, heart disease, stroke, birth defects, spinal cord injuries, ability to replace or repair organs and cancer.

This is just half of it. If one just looked at the benefits one might wonder why stem cell treatments are not in wide use. The shortcomings of stem cell research are often fears of what could result from such knowledge and the moral implications of using the stem cells. There are worries that humans should not try to play God. "Relating bodies have to pay extra caution and determine if we really need these banks. Again, some researchers may be coming to dig stem cells in Botswana, since there maybe restrictive laws in their countries.

"The unsuspecting citizens may end up giving up their stem cells for money," says Iqbal Chand, the CEO of Diagnofirm Medical Laboratories. He gave a scenario from recent publications that a patient in Berlin was cleared of HIV after stem cell treatment for leukemia.

"We do not even know how true it is and if it was the stem cells that cured his HIV. Even if it is, it is one person in a million so there is no assurance," Chand pointed out.

Another big issue with stem cells research is superstition. In most African communities, the umbilical cord must be buried after birth because it is believed that anyone with access to it could exert some spiritual influence on the child. This has led to uncertainty towards cord tissue and cord blood storage in most African societies. However, with the success of transplants making the headlines, more and more people are willing to donate adult stem cells to save lives.

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Unveilling stem cells

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