Stem Cell Research – what is it? And what is it trying to accomplish?

By Kay E. Case, M.D., FACOG, Board Certified Physician & Surgeon

Stem cells are pluripotential – they can change and become more specific in type. Stem cells come from three sources – embryonic, fetal and adult tissues.

Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are the most plastic / transformable, and therefore, useful. Federally funded research using ESC is limited to the 22 cell lines created before 2002. Fetal (cord blood and placental) and adult (ie bone marrow) stem cells are less able to transform but are more abundant and less controversial.

The research currently being done with stem cells could have a major impact in the treatment of more than 70 diseases and injuries. The main focus currently is in the areas of spinal cord repair for paraplegics, retina repair for blindness, beta islet cells for diabetic insulin production, cardiac muscle cells to patch damaged hearts. Further down the road it may be possible to treat sterility by replenishing the germ cells in the testes and ovary.

It remains a testimony to the miracle of pluripotential transformation that from one egg and one sperm a fully formed baby develops with multiple tissue types and organs. The providers at Women’s Health Care are excited to support pregnant women through their baby’s development.

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