Opportunities and Barriers to Stem Cell Treatments Essay

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Stem cell treatments are currently being researched with the intention finding a potential cure for a range of debilitating diseases. Stem cells are not terminally differentiated, therefore can differentiate to give rise to specialised daughter cells, as well as boasting the capability to self-renew.[1] These properties have resulted in the development of research into using stem cells for cell replacement therapy, and the use of stem cells to create new tissues and organs to replace those damaged from disease.[1] As different types of stem cells have different potencies and properties, each type of cell has different opportunities and barriers in the potential use as a treatment. Different types of stem cells have different potential potencies. This is therefore the first and most obvious barrier to using stem cells as a treatment. Tissue stem cells, such as haematopoietic stem cells, have limited potency in that they can only differentiate into the cell of a particular lineage.[1] This would limit the potential for stem cell treatment as these cells could only be used for repairing or replacing cells of the same lineage. Tissue stem cells are also very difficult to grow efficiently in vitro.[2] The use of tissue stem cells as a treatment has been well documented; bone marrow transplants, which involve transplanting haematopoietic stem cells into patients for treatment of haematological and non-haematological diseases, have been performed successfully for decades.[3] However, these treatments are not without barriers though and development of complications is possible, such as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) common with allogeneic transplantation.[3] Nevertheless, current research involving the use of these cells looks auspicious, with preclinical work on the use of adult stem cells to treat traumatic brain injury appears to be a promising development.[4]

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