AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: #controversy

The Cell Superhero

Did you know that there is a cell that can help benefit patients with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer, and osteoarthritis? You must be thinking, what kind of cell can do all of this! The answer is a type of cell that has come into research relatively recently: Stem Cells.

Stem Cells are superheroes, in fact, they have a superpower – shapeshifting. Think of Stem Cells as the body’s raw materials. Under the correct conditions, Stem Cells divide to form what is commonly referred to as Daughter Cells. These Daughter Cells have the capability to become new Stem Cells or specialized cells with a more specific function. This is where shapeshifting comes in! Stem cells can morph into a variety of different specialized cells including blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells, and bone cells. The power to shapeshift is unique to Stem Cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new types of cells. 

Another important skill these microscopic organisms have is the power of replication. As most people learn, many Cells go through the process of Replication. However, this is not a skill muscle, blood, or nerve cells typically have. Stem Cells, conversely, divide all the time. How do these cells divide and replicate while conserving their differentiability? That is a question that many people are driven to answer. If we can discover how stem cells self-renew, this information can be applied to understand normal embryonic development, or misregulated as during aging, or even in the development of cancer.

Sure, Stem Cells have a superpower, but how can they use this power to help? Researchers and Doctors hope that studying stem cells can help with a wide range of things. One ability stem cells have is helping us better understand how diseases occur. Watching stem cells mature into bone, heart muscle, nerves, other organs, and tissue cells allows researchers and doctors to better understand how diseases develop in those regions. Additionally, Stem Cells serve as a good way to test new drugs for safety and effectiveness. New studies analyze how accurate drug testing is when stem cells are programmed into tissue-specific cells to test new drugs. If this form of testing proves to be effective in the future, it can prevent harm to test-subjects that would otherwise be the first guinea-pigs.  Alike most cells, stem cells have organelles. These cells have well-developed Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi complexes, lysosomes and so much more. How stem cells have the ability to shape-shift remains a mystery, they contain similar organelles to other common cells. Studying these mysteries can uncover a variety of information helpful in the medical field and possibly allow scientists to develop their own synthetic superheroes in the future.

Stem Cells have infinite potential ways that they can be used in the medical field. The small superheroes are currently battling the issue of damaged cells and are used in something referred to as Stem Cell Therapy. Stem Cell Therapy is a type of regenerative medicine. Stem Cell Therapy allows for damaged tissue to be repaired by stem cells or their derivatives. This therapy is the next step in organ transplantation. Stem cells will be used in place of donor organs which are in limited supply. Unlike organs that come from human bodies, stem cells are grown in labs giving them the ability to be produced on a much larger scale. These stem cells are then manipulated to specialize in specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells. These specialized cells are then implanted into a person where these healthy cells can contribute to the repairing of defective tissue. 

Stem Cells are being used right now! Bone marrow transplants are a type of stem cell transplant. These cells replace cells that might have been damaged by chemotherapy or disease. They also can serve as a way for the donor’s immune system to fight some types of cancers and blood-related diseases. The stem cells used from these treatments are adult stem cells.

How many types of these superheroes are out there? Researchers have found several sources of stem cells. These shapeshifters are compartmentalized into the following categories: Embryonic, Adult, and Perinatal stem cells. You may be wondering what is the difference between all of these stem cell types? These categories can be explained simply through two identifying factors – location and ability. Embryonic cells 3-5 day old embryos. They have the ability to divide into more cells and become any type of cell in the body. Perinatal Cells also have the ability to change into specialized cells, but they come from the amniotic fluid as well as umbilical cord blood. Finally, Adult Stem Cells are cells that are located in most adult tissues. Until recently, it was believed that Adult Stem Cells were limited to the type of cell they become. Researchers previously thought that they could only create similar types of cells. However, new evidence suggests that Adult Stem Cells can create other types of cells and this hypothesis is still being examined.

You may be wondering why these superheroes are not frequently being used if they have so much potential. The use of Stem Cells is unfortunately controversial. Embryonic Stem Cells originating from early-stage embryos raises ethical questions. Guidelines for human stem cell research in 2009. These guidelines determine how these cells are used in research and recommend how they should be obtained.

So, there you have it! There are small superheroes that have the potential to do so much. Who knows what they will begin battling next!

Stem Cells…Key to Youth and Controversy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be young forever? With the help of stem cells, this is possible. Stem cells can regenerate skin tissues and can also be used to treat diseases. However, something as enticing as living forever has its controversies. There are two types of stem cells: embryonic (ES) and adult (iPS); the embryonic stem cells are the controversial type.

Embryonic Stem Cell

Embryonic Stem Cell

The only way to effectively use the embryonic stem cell is to kill a four to six day old embryo. Some people view this act as killing a baby, which sparks ethical arguments about whether or not to utilize embryonic stem cells. To avoid this controversy, scientists have been trying to use stem cells from iPS cells instead of ES cells, but they questioned the power of iPS cells compared to the ES ones.

Because genes may differ in the iPS cells from the its source, the ES cells, there is a possibility that these two cells do not have the same capability. One scientist notes that the source of iPS and ES cells differ, which can lead to differences in gene activity. The ES cells are derived from embryos, which are not completely identical to iPS adult cells.  However, recent scientific research shows that these two types of stem cells have more equal capabilities than scientists’ initially thought.

Scientists conducted an experiment to compare the genetic makeup between the ES and iPS cell. They manipulated the male type of each cell, which eventually allowed the ES cell to transform into the iPS cell. They concluded that the iPS cells genetically matched the ES cells’ parents, and that the iPS cells had more similarities with the ES cells than iPS cells had to each other.

Even though these two experimental cells genetically matched, the two cells were not identical. The experiment showed 49 genes that differed between the two stem cells. Because of this difference, scientists needed to see if this affected the functional capability of the cells. The researchers conducted another experiment that analyzed 2 of the 49 genes. One helps take in glucose, while the other helps break it down. Even though these two genes were more active in the ES cell than the iPS cell, they were equally efficient at their respective jobs. The scientists concluded that these two specific cells were functionally equivalent.

The many experiments that have been conducted on the topic of stem cells contribute to the increase in research for more ways to utilize stem cells, without the ethical controversy. Scientists are starting to employ different technological devices, such as 3-D printers to help develop and build stem cells. This ability to fabricate cells using technology overcomes previous obstacles of limited stem cell resources.

– Source Article

– More fun facts about stem cells here

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar