Can embryonic stem cells cure diabetes type one ?
by Abiram Ganeshanathan
(London, United Kingdom)
Can Embryonic Stem Cells cure diseases?
From an outside perspective, it would appear that the possibilities are endless, and that embryonic stem cells could well become the 21st century penicillin. However in reality, the human body is a complex being and there are an enormous number of complications to overcome e.g. the patient’s immune system rejecting the new cells and destroying them.
Regardless of the fact that research is in its premature stage, there have been encouraging reports. In the United States of America, researchers used embryonic stem cells to cure mice who were bred to suffer from a Parkinson’s-like condition. Embryonic mouse stem cells differentiated into neurons in a lab dish.
They were then transplanted into a rat with Parkinson's disease (PD), and the isolated cells formed functional connections and reduced disease symptoms. The researchers found that the grafted cells established functional connections with surrounding brain cells and began to release dopamine.
The rats that received the differentiated cells showed significant improvements in symptoms during behavioural tests. Since undifferentiated embryonic stem cells sometimes multiply out of control and form tumours, the researchers measured the number of cells in the grafts at several time points after the transplants. The number of cells in the grafted areas stabilized by four weeks after the transplants, and none of the rats developed tumours.
(Frazin) Albeit, it may only be in mice but the results are very promising in particular because there were no tumours formed and with the brain cells releasing the vital catecholamine dopamine. The latter is of particular interest as if related to the context of d.m.t.o., it would be beta cells releasing the hormone insulin so there are some similarities in that the embryonic stem cells were used in order to differentiate into a cell that releases a chemical of some sort.
Humans and rats have the same basic physiology, similar organs, and similar body plans. Both control body chemistry using similar hormones, both have nervous systems that work in the same way, both react similarly to infection and injury. (How Humans Are Like Rats, 2003) This likeliness between both humans and rats increases the relevancy of the results of the experiment.
Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that it will work on humans and it would be naive to believe it would be directly transferable to humans from rats without flaw.
On the other hand, there has been no embryonic stem cell research successfully tested on humans.
Even the latest breakthrough by Geron Corporation, the first group to ever obtain the approval of the FDA to conduct clinical trials, has been delayed. Despite eight years of intense research, an abnormal amount of cysts caused the company to delay trials click this link to read their explaination for the delay, 2009). There has not been an opportunity for anyone to safely test on humans as of yet.
Until, an organisation has perfected testing on animals, it is only sensible to postpone the testing of humans, but the results are promising. With most if not all medication being first tested on animals, it shows that results from animal testing are relevant and valid to use in relation to embryonic stem cells potential human use as has been the practice for several decades now in pharmaceuticals and medicine.
It would be reasonable to conclude that embryonic stem cells do in fact have the potential to cure diseases, but maybe not in the immediate future. A more thorough conclusion can only be made with some evidence of human testing but with none being conducted; only time will give a concrete conclusion but at present, the results are looking highly promising.