top of page

Stem Cell Treatment: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Stem cell treatment has been a highly debated topic for years. In a nutshell, stem cells are cells that are the base structure of the embryo. These cells start as general stem cells and over time will start to differentiate into different layers and eventually organs and organ systems. Stem cells are considered to be "the body's raw materials - cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated". Stem cells come in when a body needs a regeneration of tissue when it is damaged, such as skin tissue being repaired by stem cells when they lose dead skin cells from the stratum corneum (surface of the skin).

However, the issue arises where certain tissues that cannot be regenerated, such as cardiac muscle tissue or spinal nervous tissue, get injured and needs repair. In this case, undergoing Stem cell therapy to insert stem cells into that area from an outside source to repair the tissue has proven to be effective. However, while effective, this method has shown its fair share of ethical concerns.

In this blog, we will get into the mechanisms of stem cell therapy, why it is seen as promising, how it can go wrong, and what makes it so controversial.

The Good

Stem cell therapy from a scientific perspective and looking at it from a medical lens has worked. Stem cell therapy works by taking something known as stem cells, which are cells that have not differentiated yet within the body. There are 3 types of cells; multipotent, pluripotent, and totipotent and Stem cell therapy focuses on the pluripotent cells.

Pluripotent cells are the cells that can still give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body, but just a more narrow range than totipotent. These are the cells found through the rest of the embryonic stage and are used in stem cell therapy due to their still wide range of cells to differentiate into.

Stem cell therapy takes pluripotent cells from the embryo and then implants them into the tissue that needs to be healed that cannot regenerate on its own. For example, in a research study trying to understand stem cell research and therapy in cardiovascular tissue, these researchers implanted these stem cells into injured and infected cardiovascular tissue. Over time, the stem cells are duplicated into the cardiovascular cells and repaired tissue that does not have the regenerative capability.

At its best, stem cells can heal areas of the body such as the heart and brain that can not heal themselves because they lose their stem cells and regenerative capability through maturation, and stem cells can be an effective way at treating cardiovascular or neurodegenerative disorders.

The Bad

While stem cell therapy has shown to be promising, it has had its drawbacks like with many treatments that are as experimental as stem cell therapy. For one thing, stem cells are taken from another embryo and so the composition of these cells in regards to blood and it is from another life, may act adversely on the patient receiving the therapy.

Stem cell therapy has shown to have side effects ranging from smaller and more acute effects such as fatigue, headache, and nausea that subside in a matter of hours, all the way to seeing infection, bleeding, and pain from the tissue or nerve inflammation. Also if not regulated properly, stem cells could enter rapid duplication in the area and may lead to cancer.

Stem cells can also be completely rejected from the body which is the worst-case scenario. In these instances, the patient may see joint or muscle pain, shortness of breath, vision changes and dry eyes, skin changes such as scaring and skin stiffness, jaundice, rashes, and dry mouth. Due to this rejection, some have also gone blind from this therapy however this was back in 2012 and since then the knowledge of stem cells has increased dramatically.

The Ugly

As mentioning earlier, these stem cells come from the embryo, and this carries some serious ethical concerns as to whether this is right to do. It is a complex question because on one hand, this treatment has proven to save lives but on the other hand, it has also shown adverse affects in some and it carries the large ethical concern of if it is right to kill the unborn embryo in order to extract its cells for stem cell therapy.

What do you think of this issue, do you think stem cell therapy is ok ethically, is it ok in only certain instances or should we look for alternative ways to treat this? Let me know down in the comments.

10 views1 comment
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page