Stem Cells: The Superhero Cells

Wouldn’t it be great if we are able to manipulate cells for our own welfare? Stem cells can help victims who are diabetic, paralyzed, and even burn victims. Stem cells are helpful for victims who have had third degree burns. It can help make insulin for people that are diabetic, and assist patients that are paralyzed to be granted the probability of moving their arms or even walking.

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This is why, for my paper, I would like to talk about stem cells. Stem cells are mainly based in bone marrow and other sections of the body. These cells are tremendously good at dividing and becoming a particular cell, be it hair, skin, or muscle cells. Stems cells are the foundation of our existence. They are one of the first few cells that are produced in the blastocyst. These cells help create an embryo from inside to outside starting from the heart, liver, lungs, and other major organs in our body. This is why stem cells were first known as embryonic stem cells, because that is where they were first seen. As long as stem cells can conform into any cell, we can create and manipulate them to the benefit of patients everywhere. Ultimately, this is why stem cells are monumental for the future of healthcare around the globe.

Stem cells, are cells that are skilled in modifying themselves into organs around them. They do this by separating and creating daughter cells which in turn produces more daughter cells. They are the lone cells in the body with this ability. Stem cells are the Adams and Eves of the bodies cells. However, unlike Adam and Eve, the stem cells are still evident in our bodies. The rate might be slightly smaller compared to when a human was only an embryo. Stem cells are first seen in the establishment of embryos. In this embryonic stage, stem cells are called pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells have the same function as adult stem cells. The only difference among the two is that the pluripotent stem cell is able to evolve into any cell to create a human baby and an adult stem cell has a narrow scope. Adult stem cells are finite, but can be exploited to make other cells, such as tissue for skin or B-cells that manufacture insulin for diabetic patients. Thanks to the improvement in science, we are now able to utilize stem cells and actualize perfect settings in which a stem cell can reproduce into unique cells.

A family is fast asleep in their home, when all of a sudden, a fire starts right next to their house. The father is the first one to notice and he was able to save his wife and their children, but ended up with very severe burns. An estimated 486,000 burn injuries require medical treatment each year, and nearly 40,000 lead to hospitalization, according to the American Burn Association. (Scutti, S. 2016, December 07). Burns are categorized in 3 degrees. First-degree burns only affects the first layer of skin (epidermis), Second-degree burns affect the first and second layer of the skin (epidermis and dermis), and Third-degree burns affect all of the layers of the skin (epidermis, dermis and hypodermis). Medicine has come a long way for burn victims. Thomas Bold, CEO and co-creator of the SkinGun has used stem cells to help burn victims. How did he do it? We don’t do anything with the cells. We just isolate them from the surrounding tissue, put them in a syringe within a water-based solution, and we spray them. said Thomas Bold. ( as cited in Scutti, S. 2016, December 07). These skin cells are sprayed onto the burned skin of the patient.They can be expected to recuperate in less then a month. The reason why this is plausible is because stem cells are excellent at separating and duplicating. You might ask if stems cell are really good at multiplying why don’t we just let the skin grow back on it’s own? This would be because since the skin has been burned so severely the stem cells in that portion of the body are destroyed and can’t naturally come back to life. What would form is scar tissue which is not ideal, because it acts as super glue and has no purpose other than keeping two portions together. All of the veins, pigmentation of skin, and tractability of limbs would be lost in the formation of scar tissue. A good example would be if you were to break a TV in half. If you super glue the two broken halves of the TV, the TV won’t start working again. That is because all of the wires that were together were never fixed in a way that would allow passage from one side of the TV to the other. Scar tissue is the same as super glue with respect to skin. This is why this newly found technology is so astonishing, because it removes all of these factors and even gets rid of the alternative of skin grafting, the transplanting of skin from one patient to the other. Patients that have gone through skin grafting surgery have to deal with the conflict in pigmentation of their new skin and the probability of infection/rejection from the body. Pills will need to be taken to prevent this process.

Imagine finding out that a child is diagnosed with diabetes. Now imagine if that child was yours. That is what happened with scientist Doug Melton. He was on a mission to find a cure for why his two children are diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is categorized in two parts; type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the person’s body does not produce the right amount of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is when the person’s body is not able to correctly convert glucose to sugar. What is mostly known of patients that have diabetes is that B-cells that produces insulin cannot be made by the pancreas. Since insulin acts as a buffer, this can result in an unsafe fluctuation with the bodies temperature. Scientist have found a way to fix this problem by having these patients inject insulin into their bodies ever few hours. Injecting insulin has been the treatment for nearly 100 years and the only real advances have been the way it’s provided, via a pen or a pump, says Melton. ( as cited in Devlin, H. 2017, December 05). Injecting insulin also has its downsides as well, since patients who have diabetes have to constantly be checking their insulin levels and the needs of our bodies are constantly changing. If a patient forgets to check their levels, the drastic changes of temperature can distort enzymes and can lead to blindness or amputation of an extremity. Melton didn’t want to have this burden for his children or anyone for that matter, so he went to work. Melton was looking for a more natural way for diabetic patients to receive insulin/ B-cells. The thought process was as follows; if B-cells creates insulin, then why not create B-cells and inject them into the pancreas. Easier said than done. Melton worked for 15 years to get to the point where his lab could transform embryonic stem cells into pancreatic beta cells at large enough volumes to treat patients. (Devlin, H. 2017, December 05). These B-cells would later be put into a capsule that would be inserted under the skin. This procedure has never been done on humans, it has only been tested on rats. Hence, why Melton does not know how long the inserted capsule of B-cells will last in a person’s body. Nevertheless, this new advancement has taken away the burden of constantly checking insulin levels and the risk of losing a limb.

You are driving a car on a stormy day. Your car swerves out of control and hits a pole at full force. You wake up in a hospital with the realization that you cannot move, you’re paralyzed. Kristopher Boesen was in this same predicament. When someone is paralyzed this entails that the axons that act like a cord are missing myelin sheath, that act as bridges, are broken. Without these myelin sheath the axons can not correctly send sensory or motor actions to the arms or legs. This creates atrophy in the muscles because they are not being used. There are two cases of paralysis. Paraplegic, which is loss of motion of two extremities, are people who are still able to move their arms. This affects people that have been injured from the lumbar vertebrae. Quadriplegic, which is loss of motion of four extremities, are people who do not have the ability to move any extremity. This affects people that are injured from the cervical vertebrae. Kristopher was paralyzed from the neck down, he was quadriplegic. However, there was hope; Kristopher was eligible for a clinical trial using stem cells. Nevertheless, Boesen would be the first to ever go through this process of having stem cells injected into his neck, no one really knew what would be the outcome. Boesen was told what could go wrong. Since this is the first time this procedure was ever conducted no one knew the right amount of dosage. This came with the possibility of the injected stem cells to turn cancerous or the likeliness of losing the little movement he had, which was moving the left arm up and down. With Kristopher open to any chance of ever walking again, he agreed. Boesen had to go through several tests to make sure he would be ready to go for the surgery. After a month had passed since Boesen’s surgery to stabilize his spine when he was first admitted in the hospital and his neck had shrunken. He was ready for surgery, well his injection. Charles Liu, MD, PhD, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Kris’ cervical spinal cord. (Aldrich, M. 2016, September 07). In as little as two weeks, signs of increased movement was evident. Kris was able to move both of his arms. said Dr. Liu. In Kris’ case, two spinal cord levels means the difference between using your hands to brush your teeth, operate a computer or do other things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so having this level of functional independence cannot be overstated. (Aldrich, M. 2016, September 07). After three months, Kris was able to do more advanced movements like using a phone, writing his name, and even hugging family and friends. Thanks to Liu, Kris is able to live an independent life. Going from being quadriplegic to paraplegic is a huge step in the right direction, considering neurons were thought to be damaged after the myelin sheath was destroyed. This new discovery would help pave the way to help move forward with the study of stem cells and nerves.

In conclusion, Stem cells are the superhero we all need in our lives. Stem cells help open the possibility of never having to do a skin graft for victims who have suffered from severe burns; or from ever needing to inject insulin into a diabetic patient. Stem cells can even assist quadriplegic patients turn into paraplegic patients. However, stem cells also has a possibility of turning cancerous and making the problem much worse. This is understandable since cancerous cells are really good are multiplying very quickly as do stem cells. With everything in life we need to outweigh the good and bad. We need to decide if it’s worth the risks like what Kristopher Boesen had to choose. Thanks to Boesen’s bravery, the concept of axons to be restored with myelin sheath is a humongous achievement in the study of nerves and neurons. Which is why stem cells are monumental for healthcare all around the globe.

References:

Aldrich, M. (2016, September 07). Paralyzed man regains use of arms and hands after experimental stem cell therapy at Keck Hospital of USC. Retrieved from https://stemcell.keck.usc.edu/paralyzed-man-regains-use-of-arms-and-hands-after-experimental-stem-cell-therapy-at-keck-hospital-of-usc/

Dance, A. (2017, January 15). Stem cell therapy gives paralyzed man second chance at independence. Retrieved from https://stemcell.keck.usc.edu/stem-cell-therapy-gives-paralyzed-man-second-chance-at-independence/

Devlin, H. (2017, December 05). Grow your own: The race to create body parts in the lab. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/dec/05/create-body-parts-replacement-skin-regenerative-medicine

Scutti, S. (2016, December 07). Experimental SkinGun heals burns using stem cells. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/07/health/skingun-burn-care-technologies/index.html

Stem cells from adults function just as well as those from embryos. (2018, August 09). Retrieved from https://blog.frontiersin.org/2018/05/14/cardiovascular-medicine-stem-cells-embryonic-adult-personalized-medicine/

Stem cells: Frequently asked questions about stem cell research. (2018, October 24). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/in-depth/stem-cells/art-20048117

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