Stem cell research is one of the fastest moving and most exciting areas of medical research, offering a whole range of new possibilities when it comes to treatment of serious diseases and medical conditions.
Stem cells exist naturally in the body, and are a class of undifferentiated cell, which can then can differentiate into different cell types. Being able to cultivate stem cells is therefore of huge potential benefit to doctors. Stem cells used in research and treatment usually come from two sources: adult tissue, or embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development.
New technology, such as imaging devices, has allowed scientists to fine tune their observations, and refine possible usages. By making better observations of the way in which stem cells react when introduced into a patient’s body can help improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants.
This has massive implications for the treatment of diseases like cancer, and can also help patients with serious immune deficiencies and blood disorders. There are also positive implications for transplant patients, as new imaging technologies help to assess how new organs ‘take’ in a patient’s body.
Bones and Cartilage
Studying cell culture in the laboratory can turn up new applications for the technology on a regular basis. A good example of recent progress is the recent isolation by scientists of the stem cell which helps to create bones and cartilage in mice.
This discovery has particularly useful potential applications for the treatment of joint injuries. Many times medical specialists have to remove cartilage from damaged joints to relieve symptoms and pain in patients. This procedure can leave the joint more open to attack from arthritis later in life. Being able to grow new cartilage for the joint would mean that physicians would not have to leave the joint so vulnerable to later arthritis.
Stem cell research throws up new medical possibilities all the time, and is set to become a telling part of doctors’ medical armouries in coming years.