The Era of Stem Cells
Stem cell cure is now being realized as a potential treatment for blood diseases, cancer and HIV.
Sickle-cell anemia is a hereditary disease which affects the red blood cells and turns them rigid and become crescent shaped. Because of this, it affects the delivery of blood and oxygen to the different areas of the body due to them not being able to squeeze through the fine blood vessels. The blood cells also clump up and cut off blood flow and the organs like brain, kidney, lungs and bones where the lack of oxygen causes intense pain. People that suffer this disease slowly die over the years.
This is the case with a young girl name Paizley Carwell-Bowen, where she had a stroke due to this condition at the age of 6 which left her left leg paralyzed partially. The disease terrorized her as she was hospitalized often and she missed a lot of school days holding her back two grades already. The joints in her hips began to erode and she experienced excruciating pain day and night. Doctors tried blood transfusions to prevent another stroke and for a few years it worked, until her immune system grew to identify the proteins from the blood transfusion and began attacking the health blood. Finding blood that could bypass the immune system of Paizley was next to impossible and doctors told the family they were running out of options. One of Paizley’s doctors, Hisham Abdel-Azim told her parents that there was one option left but it was a risky one. They would use chemotherapy drugs powerful enough to wipe out the bone marrow in Paizley’s body that made the sickle blood cells. They would then transplant bone marrow full of stem cells that are capable of providing healthy new blood.
Four years later now, Paizley is like a new person. No more pains, no more blood transfusions and no more sickle-cell disease. Healthy blood now flows through her veins though it is not from her; it’s from the donor of her bone marrow, a 45-year old woman. Paizley was rebuilt by that woman’s stem cells now making her a normal kid. She can now sleep soundly at night and regularly go to school, and all the worry about dying young is now gone.
The miracle of stem cells that was highlighted by Paizley’s recovery is just a fraction of its potential, the origin cell that continually generates tissue, endlessly dividing. The stem cell treatment used for Paisley came from a healthy donor of bone marrow. But there is a vast range of possible treatments by using embryonic stem cells, the origin cell where all other cell types originated, where tissues and organs formed from, that has the potential to heal disease and damage of all forms. It was back in 1998 when scientists from Wisconsin University first isolated stem cells from human embryos.
The concept of scientists back then was rather simple – harvest stem cells from embryos and integrated them to patients. The stem cells will then rebuild and heal spinal cord injuries, heart damage due to diseases and heart attack, send cancer to remission. Stem cell was seen to be able to cure anything like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, even possibly psychiatric illness.
The reason that the development of this miracle therapy was hindered was due to ethical reasons and controversy over abortion. The most potent stem cell, where all cells originate from, comes from human embryo still in the early stages of its life. The embryo will then evolve into a blastocyst where there are a handful of pluripotent stem cells that are capable of developing into every other cell type or tissue and this is what scientists harvest.