The topic of embryonic stem cells of stem cells is a highly controversial one. Although it has a plethora of uses, its use is also mired in controversy because of the reason that it is harvested from an embryo.
But, what exactly is the embryonic stem cell and what is its practical, albeit controversial uses?
The Embryonic Stem Cell, what is it?
The embryonic stem cells are harvested from the inner cell mass of a human embryo, specifically from a few days’ old embryos known as the Blastocyst.
These embryos are specially cultivated inside in vitro fertilization laboratories. What the scientists do is they get a sperm and an egg from a willing donor (which means that they’re not coerced in any way to donate) and they make it run their course to start the fertilization process to create the embryo.
The result is a blastocyst which is a very tiny embryo that is the product of the early fertilization of the male sperm and the female’s egg cells. The blastocyst is actually quite tiny; as to how small it is; it is exactly the tip of the small letter “i”.
One of the controversies surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells is due to how it is extracted. As you all know by now, the stem cells are harvested from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. Although it sounds okay on paper, the resulting embryo will not actually grow and develop as it normally should be. That is why the blastocyst will no longer develop into a full-sized human, and thus, it is considered as dead.
Its Practical Uses
Although it has some ethical implications, the embryonic stem cells have a lot of practical uses. They have two distinct traits that are normally not found in other cells: They have the ability to divide indefinitely and they also have the ability to turn into different cells from the three primary germ layers: The Ectoderm, Endoderm, and Mesoderm.
Scientifically speaking, the embryonic stem cells can turn into any of the 200 types of cells that are found predominantly in the human body, so long as it is programmed to do so.
This type of stem cells is also known as Pluripotent Stem Cells because of its unique characteristics.
It is also because of the traits that make it so amazing for the creation of different treatment methods. Embryonic stem cells have been used extensively in regenerative medicine.
For instance, patients who are suffering from Leukemia may fully recover from cancer by giving them high doses of cancer-killing medicine and then transplanting them with stem cells to initiate the repair process afterward. But its applications do not stop there.
The Pluripotent stem cells are still being researched to this day because scientists believe that they hold the key to treat most if, not all, of humanity’s different medical conditions.
We might come up with a way to induce the differentiation process right before it gets transplanted and in doing so, we might produce therapies that can help treat blindness, Parkinson’s Disease, and even Spinal Cord Injuries.
We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the embryonic stem cells use in therapeutic means and regenerative medicine. All we can do now is hope that one day, we will find a cure for what ails the human condition.