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Stem Cells: The Future of Medicine

Inside the human body, blood cells (both red and white) are always moving. White blood protects the body from foreign invaders. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to every cell and tissue in our body, and not only that, red blood cells also expel waste and toxins from the human body.

That is why blood are a very important part of the body. But all the wiggling and squeezing of these blood components in tiny vessels is very challenging for red blood, that is why their life span only last four to five months at most. The big question is, where do the replacements come from? The answer is Stem cells.

Stems are an exceptional kind of cells. Usually, most of them divide, the children cells act and look exactly like the parent cells. For example, skin cannot be made, but only skin cells. It is the same with other parts of the body like the liver, intestine or lungs. It does not apply to stems, and they can become a lot of various types.

That is how the human embryo develops from a single fertilized female egg into a living fetus with trillions and trillions of specialized living cells. They need to be specialized to create different tissues that have different individual functions, including brain, muscle, skin and other tissues from different organs of the body.

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When the person is older, they can also replace damaged or worn-out units, including the red blood. The amazing capabilities of these units make them very exhilarating for a lot of scientists. In the near future experts and scientist alike hope to use the stem units to replace or repair different kinds of damaged tissues, whether it is due to injury because of accidents or damaged by illness.

Stem therapy would allow the human body to heal itself, like how a starfish repairs its injured extremities. Experts found ways to put specialized cells to repair damaged tissues. Paired with stem units, these cell-based treatments might improve and make permanently damaged tissues an extinct problem and a thing of the past. One form of the unit offers a unique solution for therapeutic purposes.

Meet the members of the family

Blood stems are usually found in your marrow. There, they divide and multiply over and over. Some of these new units remain as stems, and others form red blood cells. Some of them morph into five kinds of white blood units that will fight foreign invaders or infections.

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Although these blood components can become one of the specialized units, they can’t become nerves, muscle or other forms of cells. Another member of the family is more generalized. These units can mature into any kinds of components in the body.

Such stem components are called pluripotent. It means having a lot of opportunities or possibilities. It is not hard to know or understand why they have captured the imaginations of many medical experts and scientists.

Until recently, the pluripotent came from the living embryo. That is why scientists and medical experts called them embryonic components. After the egg gets fertilized, the egg divides in two. The two fertilized egg divide again, so on and so forth.

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They split exponentially until they form into a living embryo. Each of the cells inside the nucleus is identical to each other, yet each has the potential to develop into different specialized components. When the embryo reaches at least three days old, they start to reach their potential.

These dedicated units will develop into bone or muscle components. Others will form liver, lungs, heart or even the lining of the stomach. Once they are specialized, their “many possibilities” attribute becomes limited.

Looking for answers

In 2006, Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, discovered what is now called specialized units, can be converted back into its original stem form. Yamanaka persuaded or induced mature cells to get back to its original stem form. He made it possible by inserting a specific set of human genes into the adult ones.

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After a few weeks, it behaved just like an embryonic component. This new kind of component is called induced pluripotent, iPS or iP stem. His discovery represented a great leap forward in the medical field. The iPS offer a lot of advantages over both adult and embryonic components. First, iPS can become any type of core, just like the embryonic stem. Second, iPS can be made from any starting core type.

It means that they are very easy to get. Third, in the near future, medical professionals would be able to treat a lot of patients using the components created from the patient’s tissues. Such parts can be a perfect match genetically and it can avoid any form of organ rejection issues.

Traditionally, our body’s defense system will attack any foreign objects, including organs that are transplanted. With the use of organs created from the patient’s tissues, the body’s defense will look at it as a friendly organ, and not as a foreign body. A lot of people undergoing transplants die because of organ rejection problems. With the advancement in this technology, this can be prevented dramatically.

Therapies take patience, not only patients

A lot of experts, like people working on stem cells in Miami, induced stem technology to learn more about different kinds of rare diseases, including genetic ones like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s or Pearson Syndrome. This technology can help explain the history of these diseases and how it can help cure these incurable illnesses.

The technology can also help people suffering from cancer. Since it can produce new cells, it helps treat diseases like leukemia where the body can’t produce enough white blood to protect itself from all forms of infections, even the simplest ones like colds or flu.

A lot of medical professionals and scientist hope that the day will come where this technology is considered as an actual treatment, not just an experimental one. When that day comes, the medical world will change dramatically, and incurable diseases like cancer will become a thing in the past.