STEM CELLStem cells are amazing! Try to think of another unicellular organism that can transform into a multicellular organism in which the cell comes in contact. It’s a tough concept to grasp and definitely hard to envision. However, it’s happening inside of everyone’s body. We have known about stem cells for decades now and stem cell’s story isn’t boring. Stem cells can tell a story filled with ethical debate, morality and accomplishment to name a few.

If stem cells had to tell a story what would they say. Where did they come from? Where were they discovered? Who discovered them?

Stem Cell – Past

Stem Cells didn’t become very popular until the 1980s but it’s debated that “Stem Cell” was a term that was coined back in the 1860s! The term “stem cell” first appeared in literature when biologist uses the term to describe a fertilized egg that becomes an organism. However, throughout history there has been times when people have used “stem cell” in a very different way then we use the phrase today.

In 1909 there was a breakthrough. Alexander Miximow uses the term to describe an idea that there are cells that are milti-potent or could have the potential to transform into different cell types.

Fast forward to 1953 where scientists were conducting research on mice with tumors in their scrotums. These tumors contain a strange sell that are pluripotent and can transform into any cell found in a full-grown animal. (As you can see we’re getting much closer to the stem cells we all know about today.)

Then the big breakthrough occurred. According to the National Institute of Health

“Scientists discovered ways to derive embryonic stem cells from early mouse embryos more than 30 years ago, in 1981. The detailed study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery, in 1998, of a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory. These cells are called human embryonic stem cells”

Finally in 1998 a team of researchers from Wisconsin reported the first batch of human embryonic stem cells, which they have derived from embryos. This is where a lot of debate originated. People on one side of the argument didn’t want to use unborn fetuses for research, even though the outcome could cause huge medical advancements. Another side thought the research was worth investigating if it meant medical progress.

Stem Cell – Present

Today stem cells are portrayed in much different way then the 1990s. We have currently put stem cells on a fast track to success. In the United States stem cells are becoming a billion dollar industry. After all, there are currently 80 diseases that are treated with stem cells. However, lets not stop there. Stem cells holds promise for the treatment of some major diseases like heart disease and spinal cord injury. Check out the list below of a few groups of diseases that are currently being treated with stem cells

  • Acute Leukemias
  • Inherited Immune System Disorders
  • Plasma Cell Disorders
  • Inherited Metabolic Disorders
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Besides the diseases that are already treated from stem cells it seems like we’re putting stem cells to use all over the place. We’re trying to reverse blindness with stem cells, were trying to learn how to rebuild organs with stem cells and we’re actively improving people’s quality of life with stem cell therapy.

Stem Cell Therapy is one of the most present breakthroughs with stem cells and it’s becoming more and more popular. If you aren’t sure, or don’t follow the news, stem cell therapy is the process of injecting stem cells into an affected joint such as your knee or shoulder and re-growing the cartilage to reduce pain and to avoid surgery. For example if you have constant knee pain it’s most likely arthritis. Arthritis is caused when you wear away the cartilage and tissue in your knee joint, for example, and the area becomes swollen. In the past people wouldn’t be able to do anything about the arthritis and they would have to replace the joint with an artificial joint.

Would you rather regrow the cartilage in your knee or get your whole knee replaced? This is why stem cell therapy is so popular. Regenerative medicine, such as stem cell therapy, is allowing people regrow their joints and avoid surgery, all thanks to stem cells!

Stem Cells – Future

The future of stem cells seems very bright. Since the 1990s we’ve found other sources of stem cells such as the amniotic sac, bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. We don’t have to use embryos and no one is harmed while obtaining stem cells. With no ethical or moral debate, the sky is the limit. There’s not as much holding researchers back from learning more about stem cells, curing more diseases and understanding their limitless beneficial qualities.

The Children’s Hospital Boston said it perfectly.

‘Stem cells hold great promise and potential in the field of medicine, whether doctors inject them into patients to replace diseased bone marrow, or lab scientists scrutinize them under a microscope to see how lung cancer develops. The road to innovation is long and full of obstacles, and there are plenty of questions left unanswered. But progress is ongoing and in many cases startling. At Children’s Hospital Boston, researchers continue the journey to bring these advances to the clinic, ethically and safely.”

References:

  • Department of Health and Human Services, 2015 | (Thursday, March 05, 2015). Stem Cell Basics [Blog]. Retrieved from http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics1.aspx
  • Boston Children Hospital, 2015 | (2014). HISTORY OF STEM CELL RESEARCH — A TIMELINE [Blog]. Retrieved from http://stemcell.childrenshospital.org/about-stem-cells/history/