From the embryo to medicine

You may have heard about stem cells in newspapers, on the television, or simply in your Biology class. Now, new methods have made these shape-shifting cells even more prevalent in science, medicine and human life.

According to the Karolinska Institutet website, a team of researchers headed by Karl Tryggvason, Professor of Medical Chemistry at Karolinska Institutet, has devised a method of large-scale production of embryonic stem cells. The key is that this method removes only one stem cell from an embryo containing eight stem cells.

“We know that an embryo can survive the removal of a single cell. This makes a great ethical difference,” says Tryggvason on the site.

Embryonic stem cells can become any cell in the body; there is no limit to the possibilities they can provide to science and medicine.

Embryonic stem cells can become any cell in the body; there is no limit to the possibilities they can provide to science and medicine.

It is illegal in the United States to harvest embryonic stem cells as the process destroys the embryo. However, this new method allows for the embryo to be re-frozen and have the potential to become a healthy and, most importantly, living human. This takes some of the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell harvesting out of the equation, and could therefore allow for new medicine and treatments for illnesses chronically plaguing the world to come about quicker.

“I think that this is a good method because it still allows for the embryo to become a living human. Yet at the same time, I feel like natural methods are better for pregnancy and not in vitro fertilization that happens in a laboratory,” says Maddie Allen ’16.

Once the stem cell is harvested from the embryo, it is placed on a human laminin protein normally associated with stem cells in the embryo that allows for them to multiply without risk of contamination, according to the Karolinska Institutet. Being unspecialized and pluripotent, the embryonic stem cells are able to become any other cell in the body, from skin cells to cells that produce insulin.

“I think that stem cells are important because they can mean the difference between life and death in certain medical circumstances,” says Erica Brooks ‘16.

Stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells, hold a prominent place in the scientific and medical fields. However, with this new method of mass-production of those cells, doctors and scientists can begin to tackle the ailments of the world.

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