What is Stem Cell Regeneration?

Lee Johnson

Stem cell regeneration is the process by which stem cells are used to regenerate or repair damaged tissue or even organs within the body. Stem cell regeneration has been shown to be effective at healing burns, broken bones, blindness, Parkinson’s disease and many other conditions. This is a relatively new field of scientific research, and the stem cells are either obtained from embryos or adult humans.

Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.
Stem cells and the types of cells they could become.

Stem cells are basically cells that haven’t yet been assigned a specific function. These cells are capable of replicating themselves exponentially and even becoming more specialized cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells and nerve cells. When applied to an affected area, the stem cells have the capability to become the relevant type of cell and effectively regenerate the damaged portion of the body.

Stem cell regeneration may be able to treat congenital heart defects.
Stem cell regeneration may be able to treat congenital heart defects.

These potential applications for stem cell regeneration have led many scientists to believe that regenerative medicine can be used to treat a variety of previously incurable conditions. Laboratory tests and clinical trials have shown that stem cell regeneration could cure several conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative nerve condition, diabetes and even cancer. Stem cell regeneration could also be used to create donor organs from an extracted “scaffolding” of an organ. This means that in the future, the basic shell of an organ could be taken from a donor and then re-formed from the recipient’s stem cells.

Stem cells are present in very young embryos and in the bone marrow and brain of adults. Generally, embryonic stem cells are more malleable, and therefore are preferable choices for use in stem cell regeneration. The only issue this presents is whether or not it is morally acceptable to use cells from unborn fetuses to cure suffering adults. Many scientists are trying to work out how to re-invigorate adult stem cells through biochemistry so that they become more effective candidates for regenerative therapy. This could mean that in the future, conditions may be able to be cured by extracting stem cells, rejuvenating them, and then injecting them back into the affected area.

Aging of different organs within the body affects their function and is one of the many factors that can cause old age related death. Stem cell regeneration, if properly understood, could be used to heal these aging organs as they degenerate, thereby increasing the expected life-span of humans. Stem cell regeneration has also been shown to be effective at treating conditions such as congenital heart defects.

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