General Article Stem cell research: hope or hype?

Topic Selected: Cloning and Stem Cells
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What is a stem cell?

Stem cells are immature cells that have the potential to develop into the approximately 200 different cell types that make up the human body, such as heart, liver and skin cells. Stem cells serve as a sort of repair kit for the body; they can divide an unlimited amount of times and replenish dead and damaged cells. Scientists are beginning to understand what causes stem cells to divide almost indefinitely and what causes them to specialise into other types of cells.

Why are stem cells important?

Scientists are trying to find ways to grow stem cells in the laboratory and make them generate specific cell types so they can be used to treat injury or disease. Some examples of potential stem cell therapies include replacing the dopamine-producing cells in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, developing insulin-producing cells for type I diabetes, and repairing damaged heart muscle following a heart attack with cardiac muscle cells

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