Stem Cells: The Wave of the Future April 1st, 2010
Companies and Universities across the United States are making huge breakthroughs in the medical industry, more specifically in the area of adult stem cell research. Scientists have discovered that these cells may hold the key to discovering the ability to regenerate damaged organs, and these concepts are currently being tested in university laboratories nationwide. Imagine having the ability to fix and mend damaged organs or body parts that are currently irreplaceable, or the damage may have been perceived as life threatening at one time. With the new technology that is being tested in laboratories this concept might actually become more than a creative story from a science fiction novel. Several studies have already been successfully conducted on laboratory animals and it is only a matter of time before these studies progress to human beings.
When many people hear the words “stem cell” they immediately think of the embryonic stem cell research that has been so controversial in this past decade. The reality is that this research has not led to the current advancements that are being made in the field of medicine. The breakthroughs that are being made are a result of adult stem cell research, and our ability to manipulate these cells to help heal the human body. Adult Stem cells are actually other common cells found in every adult body that are used by the tissue that they are a part of, to repair any damage that occurs. For example, one of the most common types of stem cells that are being used in this experimental research is the stem cells in one’s own bone marrow. These cells can actually be manipulated to not only heal bones but also other organs throughout the human body.
A recent study that was conducted at the Tel Aviv University used bone marrow stem cells to help stop the damage that was being done to the brain of a living animal, and then to actually help repair the damage that was done. Researchers were able to track the progress of the stem cells using MRI technology, and it was obvious that the stem cells from the participant’s bone marrow, that had been introduced to the brain tissue, had made a positive impact on the results. This is a very important discovery, not only because it means that we might be close to developing a cure for brain diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, but also because this technology uses cells from an individual’s own body in order to commence the healing process. This almost totally eliminates the possibility that a person’s body will reject the process, which can be a huge issue to deal with when trying to provide a person with any type of organ transplant.
Eventually researchers are hoping that they will be able to grow transplantable organs in a laboratory as if they were plants. Currently, scientists from prestigious schools such as MIT, Harvard, and the University of Southern California are knocking at the door of this opportunity. Having the ability to grow new organs that are ready to transplant will change the medical industry as we know it. The long wait lists associated with finding a donor organ as well as the process of finding a match between a donor and a recipient will all be eliminated. Another great feature about this process is that the researchers are trying to do it using the recipient’s own adult stem cells. This will eliminate the need to find a match between an organ and the individual who is receiving the transplant, which only increases the potential upside of this progress.
With so many researchers and scientists trying to make a breakthrough using adult stem cells, there is bound to be some huge movement in the medical field within the next decade. Although scientists are not quite at the point where they can grow human organs in a test tube, they have made rapid progress over the past few years. Since the discovery of stem cells over fifty years ago, consistent research since then has allowed us to reach the point where we are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As with every other important technology, it needs to be put through years of trials before actually being introduced to the marketplace. From the time that a certain technology is discovered, it usually takes years of research and development before the technology can be used in a real world setting. For example, it took 30 years from the time that the transistor was created and the time when the first personal computers were developed.
With 50 years of research under our belts, the developments being made with adult stem cells are becoming more and more rapid. As the progress becomes even more visible to the public, large and small companies will begin to try and establish a niche in the area stem cell research. This will only continue to increase the efficiency and results of the research helping to drive innovation. It will also open up even more creativity and possibilities in regards to the different ways that this technology can be used to benefit the world.
With the focus now directed towards adult stem cells, a lot of the controversy that was associated with embryonic stem cell research will be eliminated. Since there really has not been much progress in this area, companies that were directing their funds towards embryonic research will begin to make the shift to adult stem cells. With so many companies focusing their research in the area of Adult Stem Cell progress, within the next decade, we can expect to see things such as transplantable organs that were grown in a laboratory and other medical feats that will help to improve the quality of life for everyone.
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