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03 Aug 2011 3 Comments

What is Stem Cell and its brief history

With the spurt in many complex diseases over the last few decades, finding the right cure for them is fast becoming an imperative.. Recent life saving breakthroughs have come in the form of stem cells research and innovation, which has led to several cures and therapies. However, many of us hardly understand the world of Stem 'cells , maybe because it's perceived to be way too complicated!So here' something that will help you understand more about Stem Cells.

What are Stem Cells?

Stem Cells are very early stage cells that have the ability to turn into other specialized types of cells. For example, a stem cell can turn into liver cells, skin cells, nerve cells etc. Which help to form the respective organs, in short, stem cells act as a repair system for the body.

There are generally 3 types of stem cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Adult stem cells
  • Umbilical cord stem cells

These stem cells are significant for a number of reasons. They hold the key tocures diabetes, brain diseases like Parkinson, cancer or Multiple sclerosis (MS). Stem cell research may also be useful for improvement of livestock and other animals.

Stem cells can now be artificially grown and transformed into specialized cell types with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves through cell culture. Highly plastic adult stem cells are routinely used in medical therapies. Stem cells can be taken from a variety of sources, including umbilical cord blood and bone marrow.

Embryonic stem cells are harvested or collected from the very early stages of a fertilised egg called a blastocyst. Adult stem cells are collected from a limited number of cell types in the body. Typically these are bone marrow cells.Umbilical cord stem cells are collected from the cells of the umbilical cord of a new born baby. Some of these cells are slightly undeveloped and so can turn into other types of cells.

Research on stem cells grew after the findings of Ernest A. McCulloch and James E. Till were published in the 1960’s.The current hype surrounding stem cells began only in 1998, when several research groups almost simultaneously claimed that they had succeeded in converting human embryonic stem cells cultured from abortion material and supernumerary embryos from IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics. The first successful cord blood transplant was performed in 1988 in France, on a young boy suffering from Anemia (a blood disorder). Since then, ongoing research has led to the development of stem cell treatments, that are today being used for almost 70 life-threatening diseases.

Another exciting scientific finding came in 1999, when scientists first manipulated mouse cells to give rise to specialized cells—a process known as differentiation. The year 2001 saw an embryonic stem cell turn into a blood cell. In 2005 the United States Congress passed the "Stem Cell Research and Therapeutic Act of 2005 (H.R. 2520)", national legislation that created new public banking and research facilities. It also encouraged medical practitioners to increase awareness of cord blood donations amongpregnant women. Nowadays, approximately 500 cord blood transplants are performed every year. Science is continually on the verge of new and exciting discoveries concerning stem cells and cord blood.

To read more about Stem Cells , Click here



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