STEM CELLS: DREAM OR REALITY?
Author Dr.Davide Maged; MSc, PhD in Biomedical Science and Public Health, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, università cattolica del sacro cuore Roma (Italy).
Stem cells have always been at the centre of heat and intense debates because of the potential they may have in the treatment of many diseases but also because of the ethical implications linked to their creation.
Dr. Davide, why should we study stem cells? To understand what determines the birth, proliferation, and death of our cells, how our tissues are generated, how they degenerate, how cells in the heart, pancreas or neurons, for example, are formed. To try to reproduce them in the laboratory and treat the diseases caused by the destruction of these important cells.
What distinguishes them from other types of cells? Stem cells are primitive, non-differentiated or non-specialized cells, and, therefore, without any precise function in the body except that of transforming (“differentiating”) themselves into various types of cells, such as neurons, heart or blood cells, giving rise to tissues and organs.
They can multiply almost without limit, generating other stem cells (self-generation) and cellular progeny intended to regenerate tissues and organs simultaneously. On the basis of their ability to differentiate, they are divided into totipotent stem cells, capable of developing in an entire organism, pluripotent stem cells, which can specialize in many types of cells, unipotent stem cells that give rise to a single type of cell. Only embryonic stem cells are totipotent, while the adult ones are pluri or unipotent.
So what are the possible areas of application? Today, studies are aimed at the treatment of many diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases (from Parkinson’s to Huntington’s Còrea), those of the blood and heart disease.
In the near future, stem cell research could indeed change the way we treat so many disabling diseases such as stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, or heart muscle diseases.
We hope to show you many new milestones soon!