Stem cell research
Stem Cell: (noun)
‘An undifferentiated cell that gives rise to specialised cells, such as blood cells.’
Stem cells come in different types and are derived from various sources. The stem cells used in SCI research are either pluripotent or multipotent, in the main. Pluripotent cells are capable of changing into many specialised types of cell via differentiation. Multipotent cells are also able to differentiate, but the end cell types are more limited.
Sources of stem cells include:
- Embryonic – pluripotent and derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst (a 5-7 day old cluster of cells in early embryonic development)
- Fetal – pluripotent and derived from the organs of foetuses
- Umbilical cord - derived from cord blood
- Adult – mainly multipotent and found throughout the body after embryonic development
Stem cells can be categorised by their ability to differentiate. Pluripotent stem cells can form any of over 200 different cell types found in the body.
There have been multiple press releases about how adult stem cells have ‘cured’ a variety of ills, including spinal cord injury. As things stand, this is simply untrue for SCI. It is therefore vital that research continues using a multitude of cell types until solutions are uncovered.
Being they are pluripotent, embryonic stem cells currently hold the most promise. The media misrepresentation surrounding these cells has resulted in an association with “the killing of human life”. The embryonic stem cell research that Walkoncemore aims to support involves the use of blastocysts. These cells are derived from IVF clinic ‘leftovers’ which would otherwise be destined for waste disposal. That is to say, they were never intended to be implanted into a human womb to develop into a foetus.
In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of these blastocysts are destroyed each year. These discarded cells can and should instead be utilised for life-saving research.