15 Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Stem Cell Research

Studying for an online biology degree? You don’t have to be to have heard at least a little about stem cell research and all the controversy surrounding it. Arguments can range from promises of cures for terrible diseases to the degradation of the human lives they are supposed to save. With opponents on all sides making their position clear, it can be difficult to determine your own.

To help, we have gathered 15 interesting facts you may not know about stem cell research. They include the past, current state, and even future of stem cell research and are by journalists, scientists, doctors, and more.

Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Current and Past Stem Cell Research

Learn about both the past and current state of affairs in stem cell research below.

  1. Stem Cell Basics
    Before you dive into the world of stem cell research, brush up on the basics with a visit here. It is a page offered by the National Institutes of Health and answers questions from what stem cells are to treatments. You can also read their latest reports online concerning the topic.
  2. Early Days
    Although hotly contested, embryonic stem cell research has been going on for decades. However, in 2001, adult stem cell research was only a few years old. Check out this ten year old article from CNN to get a Stanford University professor’s thoughts on the topic.
  3. Adult Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells
    While the debate on how to harvest stem cells centers mostly on who and how you get them, the results between embryonic and adult stem cells shows a difference according to the Institute of Science in Society. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho gives the latest score-sheet regarding stem cell experiments done on rats with Parkinson’s disease and which stem cell proved to be better catalysts.
  4. Pluripotent Stem Cells
    One of the biggest issues for embryonic stem cells over adult stem cells is that they are pluripotent. This means they have the potential to differentiate into almost any cell in the body, and under the right circumstances, a stem cell that is isolated from an embryo can produce almost all of the cells in the body.
  5. Pluripotent Adult Stem Cells
    But wait, there’s more. In 2007, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University may have found an alternative. Along with a group at the University of Wisconsin, they announced they had successfully turned adult skin cells into the equivalent of human embryonic stem cells without using an actual embryo. This article in “The New York Times” has more.
  6. Adult Stem Cell Deaths Show Urgency
    This is the title of a commentary featured on “Wired.” In it, he shares how there have been 3,629 American deaths associated with bone marrow transplant treatments and adult stem cells. The risks of graft versus host disease and other related topics are also shared.
  7. Adult Stem Cells Saved my Life
    In a rebuttal to the above, CNS News tells the true stories of those who were helped by adult stem cell treatment. They involve everyone from a car accident victim to someone with sickle cell anemia. There is even a report on someone who was helped after four heart attacks.
  8. Third Source of Stem Cells
    An embryo or adult aren’t the only two places one can get stem cells. Blood used from the umbilical cord made during pregnancies is also a good source. And the results can be impressive. In 2006, researchers at the University of Minnesota announced they were able to largely reverse the effects of strokes in lab rats using stem cells found in human umbilical cord blood.

Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Future Stem Cell Research

See what the future holds in store for stem cell research below.

  1. Cloning
    It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie gone wrong, but stem cells have made the practice of cloning a more foreseeable reality. This entry from the National Human Genome Research Institute describes the two types of cloning, one for reproductive purposes and another for producing embryonic stem cells.
  2. States Can Still Decide
    Although the federal government may have stalled on stem cell research, each of the 50 states is free to pass their own laws. For example, in 2010 Minnesota overturned its ban on paying scientists to engage in all forms of human cloning. The University of Minnesota was a big supporter of the funding and announced that by destroying the organism five to ten days after creating it, that it was not cloning.
  3. Stem Cell Research Overseas
    The United States isn’t the only country struggling with stem cell research. This report delves into the progress and debate going on in Australia’s search for stem cell research and cloning. In fact, they report that Australian scientists welcome reviews and recommendations.
  4. The Blind Might be Able to See
    Could Stevie Wonder actually get to see for the first time? A small biotech firm in California hopes the answer is “yes.” Two patients suffering from macular degeneration, or a form of blindness, volunteered to have lab grown retinal cells implanted.
  5. Stem Cells for Type 1 Diabetes
    Stem cell research works to treat a variety of degenerative diseases, but an interesting fact is that they are also used in diabetes research. A study out of Tel Aviv University believes that injecting stem cells into the pancreas could cause them to develop into insulin-producing beta cells, replacing the cells that have been damaged or destroyed by the body’s immune system. Endocrine Web has more.
  6. President Bush Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    A misconception on embryonic stem cell research is that President George W. Bush outlawed embryonic stem cell research. However, his decision in 2001 allowed federal funding of the practice in a limited way. Stem cell lines harvested from living embryos prior to his decision are eligible for tax-dollar funding. Bradley Mattes has more on the known qualified lines and more.
  7. President Obama Supports Expanding Stem Cell Research
    As early as http://usconservatives.about.com/od/abortionthefamily/qt/LibBill3.htm 2009, the Obama administration indicated that they would support a Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act that would increase the scope and amount of federal funding. However, a U.S. district federal court passed a temporary injunction and the future plans for stem cell research remain undetermined.

And the above 15 interesting facts you may not know about stem cell research are just the beginning to debates and future decisions on the topic. With so much more to be learned from the benefits versus the cost of stem cell research, there is still more to be said and discovered.