Stem Cells: The Future of Medicine
From being regarded as a mystical art, deeply rooted in religion, medicine was fated to be studied as a scientific field that took the simple act of healing to new heights. Now the progression of science and technology has revolutionized the field of medicine, redefining the limit of man’s control over the human anatomy.
The revolution has come in the form of stem cells; these cells differ from ordinary cells on two accounts. Firstly, they have the ability to divide and create more of themselves through a process called mitosis. Secondly, under specific conditions they can be induced or programmed to perform specialized or even organ specific functions.
Pre-existing stem cells in the human body perform a variety of tasks using their unique properties. In the bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace damaged tissues whereas in the heart, they only divide under specific conditions. Stem cells can be found in specific tissue areas of almost every organ. In some tissues, like of the bone marrow, muscle, and even the brain; stem cells generate replacements for cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury or even disease.
Scientists have discovered ways of extracting stem cells from human embryos and have also made the breakthrough of identifying conditions under which some stem cells can be reprogrammed. In light of these discoveries and given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells have opened doors to unchartered waters. In theory they can be used to treat diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer. Stem cells are already widely used in testing drugs and are also used to study normal growth and causes of birth defects.
Regrettably, the process of using stem cells in proper regenerative operations is still not perfected to the point of implementation as standard practice in hospitals. This could be accrued to the fact that the process itself is so complicated and patient specific that it would require significant funds to carry out. Nonetheless, stem cells have put into question the longevity of the human lifespan and in due time they may just replace all other forms of medicine by repairing us at the cellular level.