Understanding_Stem_Cells - Over the past decade, stem cells...

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National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council
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WHAT IS A STEM CELL? 3 TYPES OF STEM CELLS 4 WORKING WITH STEM CELLS 9 WHY STEM CELL RESEARCH IS BEING PURSUED 13 ETHICS, Moral values, AND U.S. LAW 19 IN THIS BOOKLET. . .
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F or centuries, scientists have known that certain animals can regenerate missing parts of their bodies. Humans actually share this ability with animals like the starfish and the newt. Although we can’t replace a missing leg or a finger, our bodies are constantly regenerating blood, skin, and other tissues. The identity of the powerful cells that allow us to regenerate some tissues was first revealed when experiments with bone marrow in the 1950s established the existence of stem cells in our bodies and led to the develop- ment of bone marrow transplantation, a therapy now widely used in medicine. This discovery raised hope in the medical potential of regeneration. For the first time in history, it became possible for physi- cians to regenerate a damaged tissue with a new supply of healthy cells by drawing on the unique ability of stem cells to create many of the body’s specialized cell types. Once they had recognized the medical potential of regeneration through the suc- cess of bone marrow transplants, scientists sought to identify similar cells within the embryo. Early studies of human development had demonstrated that the cells of the embryo were capable of producing every cell type in the human body. Scientists were able to extract embryonic stem cells from mice in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1998 that a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison became the first group to iso- late human embryonic stem cells and keep them alive in the laboratory. The team knew that they had in fact isolated stem cells because the cells could remain unspecialized for long periods of time, yet maintained the ability to transform into a vari- ety of specialized cell types, including nerve, gut, muscle, bone, and cartilage cells. Stem cell research is being pursued in the hope of achieving major medical breakthroughs. Scientists are striving to create therapies that rebuild or replace damaged cells with tissues grown from stem cells and offer hope to people suffering from cancer, dia- betes, cardiovascular disease, spinal-cord injuries, and many other disorders. Both adult and embryonic stem cells may also provide a route for scientists to develop valuable new methods of drug discovery and testing. They are also powerful tools for doing the research that leads to a better understanding of the basic biology of the human body. By drawing on expert scientists, doctors, bioethicists, and others, the National Academies have examined the potential of stem cell technologies for medicine and provided a forum for discussing the ethical implications and moral dilemmas of stem cell research.
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2010 for the course BIO 113 taught by Professor Saddock during the Spring '10 term at National Institute of Technology, Calicut.

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Understanding_Stem_Cells - Over the past decade, stem cells...

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