How Stem cell research can help enhance medical advancements

In this biology essay I will be discussing how significantly stem cell research influences medical advancements; there have many reports which suggest that the manipulation of stem cells can be very beneficial to the future of the medical industry. The latest studies which are being researched by scientists include, stem cells being used to cure Parkinson’s disease.

It has been suggested that scientists have identified a stage during dopamine neuron differentiation that may be the critical time to collect human embryonic stem cells for transplantation to treat Parkinson’s disease1. It would be an extraordinary breakthrough for the medical world if Parkinson’s disease was able to be cured, this is because it has a devastating effect that ruins many lives, especially the elderly, however researchers face many problems; firstly, the task of finding a method for the cure and another is to overcome the ethical and economical obstacles concerning the research into the extraction of stem cells.

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Just How Bad Is Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a very painstaking disease; it is a degenerative disorder of the brain and affects the motor skills of an individual, it is most common in people above the age of 60. This disease is caused by the insufficient formation and action of dopamine, which is produced in the dopaminergic neurons of the brain2. The source that provided me with this information was Wikipedia, although it is useful website to gain information from I do not believe it is reliable. The reasons for this is because it allows anybody who has access to the website to edit various articles, meaning that they could contain inaccurate or misguided information therefore it will not have the detailed knowledge sought for were it to be written by scientists.

In America scientists have been searching for a method which would allow them to manipulate stem cells in order to create new dopamine neurons and select the ones that may work as a therapy. Without the use of synthetic genes this advance represents an important leap forward in the mission to devise a viable cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease�.

All these proposed developments provide great evidence which suggest that the stem cells have and are still to contribute significantly towards medical advancements. I have identified problems which encounter medical science progression however it seems that stem cell research has found a way to conquer them.

A new found, healing process?

In terms of healing mental and physical disorders stem cell research has gained momentum giving great optimism to Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Scientists, most notably Lorraine Lacovitti a PhD professor and interim director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences of Thomas Jefferson University, along with her research team have found that neural progenitor cells that express the gene Lmx1a are committed to the midbrain dopamine neuron lineage, but still retain proliferative capacity. As a result of these characteristics, the stage at which Lmx1a is expressed may be ideal for transplantation.

The main direction of this issue is “Identifying the subset of developing dopamine neurons and selecting those cells at the stage appropriate for their transplantation has been challenging,” according to Dr. Lacovitti. “Our research demonstrates that we are now able to grow neurons and select the ones that may work as a therapy, without the use of synthetic genes. This advance represents an important leap forward in the quest to devise a viable cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease”.�

Dr. Lorraine Lacovitti and her team method to allow the repair of damaged neurons which cause Parkinson’s disease is as followed:

1. Dr. Lorraine Lacovitti and her team found that a large percentage of the Lmx1a-positive cells express a cell surface protein called TrkB.

2. With TrkB as a cell surface marker, dopamine neuron progenitor cells derived from human embryonic stem cells can be selected from a heterogeneous population using magnetic-activated cell sorting.

3. This has led Dr. Lacovitti and her team to test whether these cells have the ability to counteract Parkinson’s disease in animal models. They will also be adapting these procedures developed in human embryonic stem cells to adult-derived human induced pluripotent stem cells�.

This information was provided by Science Daily, they are a respectable source and I believe that they publicise accurate information to their readers. It is an online news based information source being active since 1995. It has been criticized for its refusal to provide links to the specific release on which each article is based; listing the home page of the institution responsible for the article instead. This makes it difficult for researchers and those interested to consult the actual scientific paper discussed, meaning it may not be reliable or valid. Furthermore it is not scrutinised by scientists who test the theory or discovery before publication in comparison to the New Scientist.

According to The National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s disease affects one in a hundred people over the age of 60. Dopamine neurons help control movement, cognition and other critical brain functions of the individual; the problem has been finding an effective method which can reproduce these neurons�. There have been treatments for the symptoms faced by sufferers, unfortunately none of these treatments appear to have slowed or stop the progression of the disease. Human embryonic stem cell transplantation represents the most promising method for replacement of the loss dopamine neurons, since mature dopamine cells do not survive harvest and transplantation.

New Scientist have publicised a different method that has been researched, according to them iPS cells can help with curing Parkinson’s disease having already reduced symptoms of the disease in mice. Researchers led by Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts had announced that they had done so by first creating iPS cell lines from mouse skin cells. The iPS cells were then turned into dopamine-producing neurons and implanted into the brain of the mice in which dopamine-producing neurons had been killed, to result in the Parkinson’s disease.

After four weeks the mice had showed a vast amount of improvement compared to controls, which were he suffering mice. This demonstrates the iPS cells capacity to heal Parkinson’s disease in organisms which take any shape or form. Despite there being a huge difference between treating mice and human patients it is still a major breakthrough in terms of discovering yet another method for curing Parkinson’s disease and proves that the key to achieving this is by the manipulation of dopamine cells3.

The New Scientist is a reliable source which publishes accurate information for all users who are researching into a spectrum of scientific knowledge. It is scientist community based which means that any scientist will be able to voice their opinion on a particular article. Before an article is published, it may attract controversy with a new discovery, many scientists will seek out any problems it may have by testing it themselves. If they obtain the same results that would mean it is reliable and valid as a source of information because it has been scrutinized by many other experienced scientists.

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