We are made up of many different cells. One cell becomes two, then two becomes four, and so on. That is the case when we are still young and we already contain a number of different cells when we are still in our embryo state.
That being said, back in 1998, a soft-spoken scientist from the University of Wisconsin, James Thomson was successful in removing cells from embryos that were given by fertility clinics. This is the first documented case of human embryonic stem cells.
When he and his colleagues, as well as many scientists all over the world, have rejoiced on this amazing discovery, it was quickly bombarded with messages from the political and religious sectors about its use.
You see, human embryonic stem cells are acquired from blastocysts which are premature embryos that are still within 3-5 days of formation.
These groups posit that the extraction of their stem cells would mean that that embryo is dead and they tell the medical and scientific communities that a dead embryo due to stem cell extraction would have resulted into a normal and well-functioning being.
So, the bioethics committee suggested that scientists find another way of using stem cells without all of the ethical implications. What scientists utilize in their research is mostly from adult stem cells.
These cells, although they have the ability to divide and make a ton of copies of themselves, they do not have the free-ranging ability to change into whatever cell there is out there. In other words, their differentiation potential is so limited that you pretty much cannot get something out of it, until now.
For the most part, adult stem cells are harvested from a person’s own bone marrow, but scientists have also taken advantage of stem cells that are derived from umbilical cord blood.
The use and extraction of such stem cells are okay, given that umbilical cords come from babies who are already born. Cord blood transplants are, then, considered as adult stem cells and are cleared for use in research and therapy.
In fact, it has been utilized since 1988. Cord blood is highly beneficial because it contains oxygen-rich red blood cells, as well as white blood cells, and other nutrients that are needed by the body.
Aside from cord blood, there are plenty of scientists that were able to discover different techniques that would help these adult stem cells go back to their previous, pluripotent state.
Catherine Verfaillie from the University of Minnesota, for example, have found a particular bone marrow cell that exhibits nearly the same characteristics to that of human embryonic stem cells.
Shinya Yamanaka way back in 2006 was the father of induced pluripotent stem cells because he was able to create pluripotent stem cells just from manipulating adult skin cells.
All I can say right now that the scientists have pretty much have come up with a way that will not make the religious and political groups mad and they can utilize stem cells in a way that will further the advancements of medical science and technology.