More and more controversy swirls around the debate about stem cell research and its potential benefits to Man, versus the fact that the research material is taken from 4-6 day old embryos. Without some scientific background, it is impossible for most people to see where the potential in this, and other stem cell research lies.
There are actually two types of stem cells. The kind that are harvested from embryos, and “adult” stem cells, which are those that exist in a baby at birth, and can be harvested from their placental cord blood. As children grow and become adults, those cells become harder to find in the body, plus, their functions have become more specific.
For example, every hour of the day, billions of our body’s cells are replaced in a natural regeneration process. That includes everything from our skin, to our red blood cells. Other parts/organs in the body also regenerate but at a less dramatic rate. Without the sources or triggers to create a new supply of cells, we’d be anemic skeletons with no skin covering.
Scientists are focusing on studies of adult stem cells so that they can gain an understanding of how the regeneration process works, and how the cells developed to address only one organ or area of the body. Because what they have discovered through stem cell research in embryos is that at that stage of development, the cells are capable of replicating any of the 200 cells in the human body.
While it holds out the promise of possibly growing new organs, researchers say that is far in the future at this point. For now, their efforts are centering on short-term gains such as the treatment of diabetes and other organ-mediated illnesses.