General Science Bullet – Stem cell and its contributions to Medical Science

Dear Readers,

General Knowledge is important for most competitive exams, namely the UPSC Civil Services Examination, SSC CGL, Bank PO & PSU entrance tests, etc. Therefore, an understanding of the concepts/terms are relevant to our daily lives is critical for aspirants. To make your preparation easier and to help you score better, we at PaGaLGuY bring you brief articles on trending phenomena and concepts.

This article talks about the recent research on stem cells as an alternative to corneal transplantation. Research on stem cells is a topic that is vehemently debated and hence it is necessary for us to know what these cells are and their capabilities. In this article, we will try to understand their significance and future in medical science.

Why are stem cells in news?

1. A recent animal study carried out by Dr. Sayan Basu, Consultant and Scientist, Cornea and Anterior Segment Services at L V Prasad Eye Institute claimed that stem cells can be an alternative to corneal transplantation.

2. The experiment was carried out by applying stem cells to the damaged cornea of a group of animals which healed after four weeks. Another set of animals with similar conditions were allowed to heal without the application of stem cells, which resulted in clouded cornea.

3. However, it still needs to be confirmed whether similar effect at similar dosage will be possible in humans.

4. The research findings of the same have been published in the latest issue of the journal, Science Translational Medicine.

What are stem cells?

1. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells (having no specific structure or function) found in multicellular organisms that have the potency to divide and take form of almost any other cell (phenomenon termed as totipotency).

2. Stem cells are of two types: Somatic/ Adult stem cells and Embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from the inner cell mass of a 5-day old human embryo. These cells are believed to be more totipotent compared to the adult stem cells.

3. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are obtained from various organs and tissues like bone marrow, peripheral blood, skeletal muscle, heart, gut, ovarian epithelium and testis.

4. They possess the capability to serve as an internal repair system. These cells can divide continuously through cell division to form either a stem cell or any other cell with specialised function. For example: brain cell and blood cell. Stem cells can be induced to form a cell with specific function by different experimental conditions.

Future of Stem Cells in Medical Science

1. The research on embryonic stem cells poses an ethical dilemma. Embryonic stem cells can only be obtained by destroying the human embryo i.e. by destroying a potential human life. However, a successful research on one single embryo claims to save lives of millions in future.

2. Given the regenerative abilities of stem cells and their potential to take the form of any possible cell, creates new potential in the field of medical science to treat different lifestyle disorders like diabetes and other degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, among others. Fatal diseases like Leukemia can also be treated.

3. Unlocking the mysteries of stem cells, offers hope to newer regenerative therapies and better treatment options for a wide range of diseases. It not only contributes to the ever-growing field of medical research but also promises a future to many people battling with life-threatening diseases.

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