Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
I was moved to tears after watching Lisa Ray on Barkha Dutt’s show yesterda.Lisa Ray is suffering from cancer,and is bravely fighting the battle i must say.I decided to write about cancer yesterday but changed my mind because i would not be able to do justice to the topic.
Lisa underwent stem cell transplantation therapy.That prompted me to write about these cells. What they,what is their function etc.
Everyone i guess knows what stem cells are.They are the cells in our body characterised by the property of self renewal and differentiation.All other cells can be obtained from a single stem cell so they are called Totipotent.Once a cell lineage is formed from a stem cell,the cells cannot revert back to any other form( what i mean to say is a liver cell line will never function as a heart cell line,although evidences of dedifferentiation have been shown in recent works).
The hemapoietic stem cells(stem cells that give rise to blood cells) generally occur in the bone marrow,and these have been used extensively in the stem cell research,to get an insight into what really is the mechanism of differentitaion of these cells.
In fact these stem cells have been in vogue for cancer therapy.Stem cells taken from a donor can be successfully transplanted into the body of the patient and then they can be differentiated into any cell line,an added advantage of this techniques is that a person needs to undergo stem cell transplant just once in his/her life.
Infact with the recent evidences of dedifferentitaion in some cell lines,the dependence on fetal stem cells has reduced!And experiments are on in many laboratories across the world to regenerate say liver cells from neural stem cells or may be heart cells from liver stem cells etc.
One important concern in this respect is the graft rejection by acceptor’s system.The donor stem cells should be matched to the acceptor so that no complications arise post procedure.Generally autogeny(stem cell from the patient’s body itself) is favored but in case of cancer that is not viable.Hence,identical twins or siblings or close family members would be the next choice.
Although the procedure sounds very simple,it is actually not.It might take days or even weeks for the transplant to be successful.It is a very complicated procedure and not painless too eg taking cells out from bone marrow(mind you bones are the srongest tissue) is really difficult. But technological advancement has aided us in this field.
In conclusion i would like to say that stem cell research is the next big thing in Life Sciences. All those who are protesting against it on ethical grounds need to understand it is more ethical to save a patient’s life than anything else in life.
i have written this blog in simple and a non scientific manner and hope you like it.This is too naive (i must admit) if you search for scientific clarity in this article.