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Final EIP

Final EIP

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Published by Meghan Osler
Final EIP
Final EIP

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Published by: Meghan Osler on Dec 05, 2012
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Meghan Osler Instructor: Malcolm CampbellEnglish 110311/2/12
Looking on the Bright Side of Cancer
Pink, squishy, and inert, a whole human kidney rests in the hands of Anthony Atala,director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The crowd erupts in applauseas Atala presents this life altering medical miracle. Behind Atala is a 3D printer which layerskidney stem cells with extreme precision to produce a kidney just like the one he holds in hishands. In the next ten years organs like this will help diminish organ donor lists and also allow patients who receive transplants to live healthier lives. Unlike donated organs, these are createdusing the recipients own kidney stem cells and virtually eliminates the risk of organ rejection(Atala). Since we live on a planet with an ever increasing population, the demand for organs willincrease as well. The work Atala does at Wake Forest is of the utmost importance to the health of the human race.In these modern times you would have to do some serious searching to find a scientistwho would deny that stem cells are taking an essential role in medicine and biological research.That being said, you would also have a great amount of difficulty finding a scientist who didn’t believe that cancer is awful disease which kills millions each year. While seeming like polar opposites, stem cells and cancer cells have much more in common than most people would think.They share physical and physiological properties which blur the lines between the so called goodand evil with which the two have been labeled. These similarities not only change the way we
 
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should look at cancer as a whole, but also in the ways we treat it in the clinical setting. Asresearch and analysis of these similarities continue I believe the medical community will driftaway from the notion of curing cancer and toward the prospect of controlling cancer instead.
Covering the Basics
The National Institute of Health defines stem cells as undifferentiated cells which canrenew themselves through cellular division. Through specific induced conditions the cells cantake on the properties of specific organs or tissues, a process called differentiation (NationalInstitutes of Health).These cells are found all over the body and are responsible for the diversity of its tissuesand organs. Stem cells can also be divided into two separate categories, embryonic and somatic(adult) stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are found within embryos while somatic stem cells arelocated within tissues and organs in the adult body. Embryonic stem cells are found indeveloping embryos and when the cells differentiate they form all the tissues and organs found inthe body. These types of cells can only be found in embryos, placenta, and umbilical cord blood.The primary job of a somatic stem cell is to repair old or damaged tissues in the body. Thesesomatic stem cells are only partially differentiated and can only produce more cells within aspecific tissue. A single organ may also contain several types of somatic stem cells. Bonemarrow contains two known stem cell types. One type, called hematopoietic stem cells, isresponsible for the formation of blood cells in the human body. The second type called bonemarrow stromal stem cells produce bone, fat, and cartilage cells. Both cells have been used inregenerative therapies for over fifty years (National Institutes of Health).Since that time stem cells have been discovered in virtually every area of the bodyincluding the heart and brain. Regenerative medicine has come to heavily rely on stem cells in
 
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recent years. Through an organ growing technique called organogenesis, scientists can use stemcell cultures to grow tissue and whole organs. In areas like the brain, where stem cells are scarce,illness can be especially devastating. These areas are unable to produce new cells to replace oldor dying ones, so injury and diseases of the brain are often permanent. Patients who suffer fromgenetic illnesses can also benefit from stem cell therapy. Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy is adisease which slowly weakens and deteriorates muscle tissue in the body. Stem cells could beused to restore muscle tissue for sufferers of this debilitating disease. (National Institutes of Health).The potential of stem cell based therapies seems almost limitless and stem cells are becoming more widely accepted as viable treatments in the scientific community. Stem cells canhelp eliminate frightening and deadly diseases in the same way that vaccines have in the past.We still don’t understand stem cells enough to say for certain what they can or can’t do, but theyhave the potential to permanently alter the way we look at and treat disease.
How Does Cancer Fit the Stem Cell Model?
Though the scientific community has known about stem cells for quite some time, the potential link between stem cells and cancer is a recent more recent discovery. While not allscientists accept the idea of cancer cells, most agree that there is more to cancer than geneticmutations. In an article by Suling Liu, Hasan Korkaya, and Max S. Wicha called “Are StemCells Ready for Primetime”, they explain that the majority of cancers actually come from cancer stem cells (CSC), which as their name suggests, behave in a similar way to normal stem cells.Cancer stem cells have the ability to self-renew and produce more malignant cells, while also being able to differentiate into the cells which produce the bulk of the tumor. Cancer stem cellswere first discovered when scientists were studying leukemia. When leukemia cancer cells were

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