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Stem cells are of great interest to medicine and science because of their ability to develop into virtually any other cell made by the human body.

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Introduction

Stem cells are of great interest to medicine and science because of their ability to develop into virtually any other cell made by the human body. Because undifferentiated stem cells can proliferate indefinitely in culture, they could potentially provide an unlimited source of specific, clinically important adult cells such as bone, muscle, liver or blood cells. Stem cells come in three forms: embryonic stem cells, embryonic germ cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells come from embryos, embryonic germ cells from testes, and adult stem cells can come from bone marrow. Embryonic stem cells can become any type of cell while adult stem cells are more limited. But recent evidence suggests it may be possible to reprogram adult stems to repair tissues. Human embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized embryos less than a week old. Using 14 blastocysts obtained from donated, surplus embryos produced by in vitro fertilization, a group of UW-Madison developmental biologists led by James Thomson established five independent stem cell lines in November 1998. This was the first time human embryonic stem cells had been successfully isolated and cultured. ...read more.

Middle

The study of human development also benefits from embryonic stem cell research. The earliest stages of human development have been difficult or impossible to study. Human embryonic stem cells offer insights into developmental events that cannot be studied directly in humans in utero or fully understood through the use of animal models. Understanding the events that occur at the first stages of development has potential clinical significance for preventing or treating birth defects, infertility and pregnancy loss. A thorough knowledge of normal development could ultimately allow the prevention or treatment of abnormal human development. For instance, screening drugs by testing them on cultured human embryonic stem cells could help reduce the risk of drug-related birth defects. Stem cell research has shown benefits in many areas of health, but most of the studies have only been done on lab animals. Some examples are improved stroke recovery shown in rats embryonic stem cells were used to treat a Parkinson's-like condition in mice and rats. Canadian and Italian scientists transplanted adult stem cells from the brains of mice into the bone marrow of other rodents. ...read more.

Conclusion

Of course, adult and embryonic stem cells differ in the number and type of differentiated cells types they can become. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are generally limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin. However, some evidence suggests that adult stem cell plasticity may exist, increasing the number of cell types a given adult stem cell can become. Large numbers of embryonic stem cells can be relatively easily grown in culture, while adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues and methods for expanding their numbers in cell culture have not yet been worked out. This is an important distinction, as large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies. There are many ways in which human stem cells can be used in basic research and in clinical research. However, there are many technical hurdles between the promise of stem cells and the realisation of these uses, which will only be overcome by continued intensive stem cell research. A better understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of the processes may yield information about how diseases arise and suggests new strategies for therapy. No of Words: 1, 204 1 ...read more.

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