Stem Cell Research for Patient Treatment Plans
Part of the Stem Cells For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Stem cell scientists use stem cells to understand normal cell physiology, cell function, and development, as well as the mechanisms and progression of various diseases. Scientists hope to use this valuable stem cell research to develop future treatments for diseases. For example:
Scientists can create stem cells with the genetic changes that cause Alzheimer’s and study what happens to individual cells and how those events affect other cells. Discovering the inner workings of normal development and disease progression gives scientists a basis to identify key pathways or elements that are broken or misused in disease.
When scientists can identify exactly what goes wrong in a particular disease, researchers can then begin testing drugs to see which ones, if any, fix the problem or prevent further damage. They also can experiment with different types of cells and different genetic combinations to see whether certain cells can provide help to damaged cells.
Scientists also can use stem cells to generate tissues for study, testing, and possible therapies. For example, some labs are working on growing replacement skin to treat burns; other labs are working on growing pancreatic cells to treat diabetes.
If researchers can figure out reliable ways to grow tissues that are specific to a particular patient, those methods could be used to help tens of thousands of people who need tissue transplants but can’t find a suitable donor. Eventually, scientists hope to be able to grow entire organs in the lab — if they can figure out the right structure and combination of different cell and tissue types and get them to work the way they’re supposed to in the body.