The future of stem cell research and actual stem cell application has lifted off and proven to be a stepping stone to curing disease. Stem cells have always been a myth to ordinary people. Most people who think of stem cells think that it is some foreign, unobtainable cure for everything. In actuality, stem cell research has taken off like a speeding bullet and is now in the process of becoming a very real thing. There are several examples of just how close it is to becoming a very possible option.
Scientists have been studying and trying to find a way to make stem cells real for years. Stem cells are cells that help to fix or replace damaged cells in the body. These cells have the potential to grow into many different variations of cells. Cells that could be very important such as: brain cells, muscles, red blood cells. At first, stem cells were used from embryos given to scientists for research. Today, stem cells can be reprogrammed from simple skin cells from anyone and turned into useful, pluripotent cells.
The future cure became a closer goal in 2006 when Dr. Shinya Yamanaka was able to take Somatic (adult) stem cells and give them a reprogramming, which allowed the cells to become pluripotent (able to become different variations). He would receive the Nobel Peace Price for his research and discovery. At this point, scientists could begin trying out the different variations of cells and see if cellular reproduction occurs. This research was the beginning of what would be the starting point of finding a cure possible.
Fast forward to 2011, a groundbreaking development in stem cell research has opened up about stem cells being able to possibly cure blindness. 18 patients were tested using the stem cells on two different diseases. One disease called Stargardt Mascular Degeneration affects younger people with severe vision loss; the other a dry atrophic age-related macular degeneration which affects people over 50 with severe vision loss. The stem cell replacement lasted over three years and showed several of the patients improved or recovered their sight. All of the 18 saw no negative reactions to the tests and no tumors were discovered to be growing.
Harvard University is now trying to get in on the research. The university is creating insulin- producing beta cells by mixing the cells with Vitamin C. These cells will help people recover from both types of Diabetes: Type I and Type II. The issue occurring right now is that these new specialized cells are still foreign to the immune system, therefore are at risk of attack from the natural body. As of right now, the tests are being run on animals and not humans with hopes of human trials beginning soon.
Stem cell research has made its way onto the stage as a modern-day method for curing all kinds of different diseases, with testing going on for blindness, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Alzheimer’s disease. It has always been part of history as a possibility, but now it is breaking into the platform of reality. Human trials are on the way. Advancements are being made every day to take these stem cells and make them more applicable, safer to test, and more efficient in its progression.
By Evan Linneman