It’s New Year’s eve in a few hours. When I thought about which cell reminds me of New Year, stem cells immediately came to mind. Stem cells remind me of new beginnings, new possibilities, new hope. New Year is always exciting for me, so are stem cells.
Of course there are two kinds of stem cells: embryonic and adult. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be anything, even a whole new organism (especially for some animals or plants). Adult stem cells on the other hand can only give rise to a specific cell line. So we have stem cells for skin or for intestine or for blood.
Using embryonic stem cells for research is of course controversial because of the source and the way the cells are prepared. Technical and moral issues are involved here. Use of adult stem cells is not as controversial and this is where most of researches are now focused.
Actually use of adult stem cells has been going on for a long period of time. Bone marrow transplant for example uses the stem cells in the bone marrow as source of new cells to replace damaged or abnormal blood cells of the recipient.
More recently, there is a buzz about stem cell therapy. Some have advertised stem cell therapy as a kind of rejuvenating intervention for people who want to stay young and look young. Others have used stem cell therapy for curing certain illnesses especially cancer. I just hope that those who undergo this kind of therapy will first weigh all the possible consequences of this kind of therapy. As I already mentioned at the start, there are two kinds of stem cells - embryonic and adult with their corresponding characteristics. This kind of therapy must only be done by highly qualified physicians. Some unscrupulous people are also using stem cells that are not human. So we have to be very careful about this new therapy.