Stem Cells do we even need them

There have been a lot of controversial topics concerning medical science in the past 20 years; one of them being stem cells. You have probably heard about it in the news, how stem cells are taken from embryos to regenerate or divide into precious nerve cells. Stem cells are used to combat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, both of which attack cells in the brain. The controversy is that we are taking these stem cells from embryos, babies which were not born. Some people think it is unethical, and others think it is for the best. Luckily for all of us, we may not even need them.

Students from the University of Florida have recently discovered a breakthrough in medical technology. They figured out a way to take individual brain cells plucked from an adult human brain divide without a catch. When these cells are mixed with a special chemical that promotes growth, the individual brain cell could possibly, according to their hypothesis, divide enough brain cells to fill 40 million adult brains. This is still on the drawing board, and probably wont happen for some time. Keep your heads on, though, because it just might.

The reason we take stem cells from embryos is because the ones in adults have already grown to a mature state, barely dividing at all. Scientists at the University of Michigan have discovered a way to reverse this aging process. They have found the gene responsible for aging in stem cells, and they have discovered how to turn it off, so that the stem cells dont age. This means that you might be lining up to donate stem cells some time in the far future. This is because the culprit gene also serves a critical function, controlling the growth of stem cells… preventing cancer.

What if we run out of stem cells somehow? No problem. Scientists from the University of Connecticut and the University of Pittsburgh united and created two mice cloned from mature blood cells. Scientists used to agree that aged and mature stem cells were not worth researching because they were believed to be much too developed and that they would not form other tissue types, such as nerve cells. New studies show that not only do these cells work, they might even work more efficiently than the more flexible stem cells.

Works Cited:

Popular Science Magazine
January, 2007