April 4, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
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In a monumental breakthrough after several years of research, scientists were finally able to prove that stem cells are capable of developing into different cell types in the early stages of growth. This is because stem cells have the potential to repair damaged cells in the body as long as the person or animal is alive. These cells can divide and multiply or transform into a specific type of cell, thereby helping to repair organs or to replace damaged or lost body components such as blood or muscle. Stem cells begin as unspecified cells that can remain inactive until they are renewed or manipulated to become a specific type of cell.
Earlier experiments required large quantities of blood to be able to harvest good quality human stem cells. In the past few years however, scientists have discovered how to harvest and cultivate stem cells from a single drop of blood. The human induced plutipotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can be generated from blood taken from a prick on a finger. The hiPSCs exhibit characteristics that are very close to human embryonic stem cells which make them an important source of medical research.
This new method of retrieving usable and healthy stem cells was developed by scientists from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in Singapore. A new system of harvesting stem cells can be applied by donors through the collection of their own blood sample and sending it to a laboratory for screening and processing.
Blood samples taken by the donors themselves can be stored for 48 hours and then extended to live for 12 days in culture. This new hiPSC banking system has made it possible to diversify and expand the study of stem cell research.
This new method can also make the use of embryonic stem cells a thing of the past since access to embryonic stem cells is limited while the hiPSC cells resemble stem cells from embryos. It is also simple, fast and inexpensive to do as compared to past methods used to harvest stem cells. Getting just a drop of blood is also less traumatic for donors as compared to older methods that required several vials of blood.
Cancer and cardiovascular disease are some of the world’s top killers. With the advancement of stem cell research and the progressive discoveries of what stem cells can do to benefit human health, these killer diseases can eventually be overcome and defeated. The ability of stem cells to regenerate new cells to repair damaged organs and its ability to improve the condition of cancer patients undergoing treatments, makes the research a tremendous breakthrough.
The study of stem cells can also make a strong impact on other studies for respiratory diseases, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, neurological disorders, and even birth defects. There are still countless hurdles that need to be overcome in stem cell research. Considering progress on the potential benefits of stem cells on human health can only be achieved by continued research, there is vast potential in this field for anyone who is interested.