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Stem cells represent the replenishing specialized cells, which have been damaged or used up and as a consequence the natural reservoir for the body. Stem cells can produce very own copies and cell types that are greater specialized through self-renewal and differentiation respectively. Therefore, stem cells are crucial in maintaining tissues including gut, blood, and skin, which endure cell replacement.
Properties and Types
Stem cells are different from different body cells and generally have three properties: can divide and renew themselves to yield new cells; are unspecialized due to the fact they lack tissue-specific structures for specialized features and; can undergo differentiation to produce specialized cells. Despite having comparable properties, there are three categories of stem cells: embryonic (pluripotent) stem cells; non-embryonic (adult) stem cells; and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The stem cells mentioned above have different sources and perform different functions. The primary source of embryonic stem cells is the human embryos and is responsible for the production of any other kinds of body cells. On the other hand, the adult stem cells, which are also present in children and infants, originate from developed body tissues and organs. Adult stem cells assist the body in repairing and replacing damaged tissues. There are also the iPSCs that are created by turning non-embryonic stem cells into embryonic stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells can undergo differentiation to give rise to specialized body cells.
Medical and Research Applications
Stem cells have both medical and research applications. For instance, in medical, stem cells are used for treating extensive burns and in patients suffering from leukemia (Panno 36). Such application is facilitated by the property of stem cells to replace the damaged or used up cells. Besides, stem cells could contribute significantly in the treatment of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease if they could produce specific types of cells to replace the lack or loss of tissues and cells that cause the conditions mentioned (Slack 51). In research, stem cells are used in studying the development of organisms – scientists in laboratory can follow the whole process of stem cell division and specialization. Further, scientists can use stem cells to study diseases by modeling the disease processes, thereby understanding what transpires with every condition at different stages.
Scientific and Ethical Controversies
The process of obtaining embryonic stem cells has raised ethical concerns by the opponents who believe that there is life in an embryo – embryos are destroyed during harvesting and thus the whole process is morally wrong. Therefore, opponents advocate for equal rights to embryos just like any other human being. On the contrary, supporters argue that embryos are not human and, therefore, there is no ethical concern when they are used in stem cell research. Besides, supporters insist that the fertilized eggs produced during in-vitro fertilization could be discarded, are better utilized in conducting scientific research. Another ethical concern is the possible use of iPSCs in developing human embryo through human cloning (Panno 66). While human cloning could be a breakthrough to the opponents of the use of embryos in stem cell research, scientific research is likely to suffer different challenges since many countries already have strict legislation against human cloning.
Stem cells are critical in the manufacture of new cells that are required by the body. There three types of stem cells including embryonic, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. These cells have different sources and perform various functions. However, stem cells have similar properties as discussed in the essay and are used for both medical and research purposes. Notably, the use of stem cell research is faced with lots of challenges such as scientific and ethical controversies.
Panno, Joseph. Stem cell research: Medical applications and ethical controversy. Infobase Publishing, 2014. Print.
Slack, Jonathan. Stem Cells: A Very Short Introduction. New York: OUP Oxford, 23 Feb 2012. Print.
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