Regenerative medicine, the most recent and emerging branch of medical science, deals with functional restoration of tissues or organs for the patient suffering from severe injuries or chronic disease. The spectacular progress in the field of stem cell research has laid the foundation for cell-based therapies of disease which cannot be cured by conventional medicines.
Regenerative medicine also includes the possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory and implanting them when the body cannot heal itself. If a regenerated organ's cells could be derived from the patient's own tissue or cells, this would potentially solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, and the problem of organ transplant rejection.
What are Stem Cells and Why Are They Important?
The idea of a miracle cure and bodies healing themselves holds a particular fascination. Stem cell research brings regenerative medicine a step closer, but many of the ideas and concepts remain controversial. So what are stem cells, and why are they so important?
Stem cells are a type of cell that can develop into many other types of cell. Stem cells can also renew themselves by dividing, even after they have been inactive for a long time. The human body requires many different types of cells to function, but it does not produce each cell type fully formed and ready to use. Instead, it produces stem cells that have a wide range of possible functions. However, stem cells need to become a specific cell type to be useful.
When a stem cell divides, the new cells may either become another stem cell or a specific cell, such as a blood cell, a brain cell, or a muscle cell. Scientists call a stem cell an undifferentiated cell because it can become any cell. In contrast, a blood cell, for example, is a 'differentiated' cell, because it is already a specific kind of cell.
In some tissues, stem cells play an essential role in regeneration, as they can divide easily to replace dead cells. Scientists believe that knowing how stem cells work may lead to possible treatments for conditions, such as diabetes and heart diseases.
For instance, if someone's heart contains damaged tissue, doctors might be able to stimulate healthy tissue to grow by transplanting laboratory-grown stem cells into the person's heart. This could cause the heart tissue to renew itself.
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Stem Cells as a Regenerative Medicine
Given their self-renewal and differentiation capabilities, stem cells can be used to repair human tissues. Healthy induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patient tissues can be employed to regenerate damaged tissues. In regenerative medicine, various tissues can be produced using induced pluripotent stem cells.
Anti-Cancer Drug Screening
In addition to treating damaged tissues and structures with induced pluripotent stem cells directly, iPSCs can be used to screen new anticancer drugs.
Stem cell technologies may open new doors for many therapies. However, conquering limitations will require additional research to better illuminate relationships between normal and diseased or damaged stem cells. A better understanding of fundamental stem cell mechanisms will improve regenerative medicine and is imperative for more widespread clinical utilization of stem cell-based therapies.
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