Other Stem Cells
The use of embryonic stem cells has been highly-publicized and is controversial. Most of the current methods used to harvest embryonic stem cells destroy the embryo. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells that differentiate into all of the specific cell types that make up the human body. Adult stem cells, or multipotent stem cells, refers to those found throughout the human body, which are part of the natural healing process throughout your life. Stem cells – adult and embryonic – have two unique properties: (1) they replicate to create many more stem cells, and (2) they can grow into different types of cells throughout the body – liver, muscle, bone, nerve, etc. In fact, certain types of adult stem cells will replicate for several months outside of the body in the laboratory, creating more stem cells that are used in medical treatments.
Embryonic stem cell research contributes significantly to the scientific understanding of adult stem cells; knowledge that is now being used to research new medical treatments utilizing harvested adult stem cells.
An important factor in adult stem cell medical treatments is the value of using the patient’s own stem cells in order to create the most effective medical treatments that will not be rejected by the body’s immune system. New treatments using adult stem cells, such as those found in teeth and bone marrow, are the focus of countless medical research studies around the world.
After twenty years of research, there are no approved treatments or successful human trials utilizing embryonic stem cells. Their tendency to produce teratomas and malignant carcinomas, cause transplant rejection and form random undirected types of cells are just a few of the hurdles that embryonic stem cell researchers still face. Many nations currently have governmentally-imposed restrictions on either embryonic stem cell research or the production of new embryonic stem cell lines. Because of their combined abilities of unlimited expansion and pluripotency, embryonic stem cells remain a theoretically potential source for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement after injury or disease.
For more information on stem cells, you may be interested in the official National Institutes of Health resource for stem cell research (download here)