Stem cells are extraordinarily important because human development is created from these cells. An understanding of their exceptional qualities and management can teach us a lot about early human development. Diseases like cancer are thought to happen because of abnormal cell production and delineation. This means that an understanding of where things go ‘wrong’ in stem cell division and thus lead to cancer will help in finding ways to prevent the dysfunctional changes or employ effective ways to treat them with related drugs. Stem cell research also teaches us more as to why birth defects transpire and how these can be prevented or possibly upturned. An understanding of the regulation and chemical triggers of stem cell proliferation and differentiation are the keys for rectifying birth defects.
Currently, stem cells are being used in cell treatments for some types of cancer but this use is quite limited compared to the insignificant number of people who get cancer. Most likely the most important beneficial healing aspect for stem cells is the use of cell cure treatment which replaces damaged or diseased tissues with healthy stem cells. The prospect for stem cells to replace damaged cells and tissues is a stimulating one for those who will require a transplant during their lifetime. Diseases that will be treatable with stem cells will one day include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases including diseases that damage the retina and heart. Organ transplants are currently being used but unfortunately, the quantity of organs available for transplant is very limited in comparison to requirements.
Many people suffer continuously awaiting a transplant and for others, it will be too late before they are able to receive one. Clearly, stem cell use is exciting and holds great promise for treating and perhaps one day curing many diseases. Their importance ranges from an understanding of the principles behind human development to the cell-based therapies addressing those aspects that go awry during development and lead to disease. For those who are already suffering from a disease that stem cells can treat, such as certain cancer types, stem cells may currently have more personal importance and relevance.
Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two essential features. First, they are cells that have no specific purpose but are capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of dormancy. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.