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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Stem-Cell Therapy?
Nowadays medicine, like many other areas, has quite rapid development. There are new medicines and kinds of treatments discovered and developed, making possible to cure the diseases that which were previously considered incurable. One type of such procedures is stem cells treatment. As different studies show this kind of treatment have a quite high potential of using in the healthcare area for curing different types of diseases and improving the state of the human body in general. However, like any other phenomenon, the stem cells treatment has its advantages and disadvantages. It can be essential to consider both advantages and disadvantages of the stem cells treatment to have the objective view of this phenomenon and to do not believe in nor as a panacea, neither as the entirely negative kind of therapy.
Among the advantages of stem cells treatment is their using in for repairing organism. The researchers noticed a potential therapeutic strategy of the replacement or the induction of stem cells “so that when an injury occurs, they can reconstitute the tissue system in question or facilitate the natural mechanisms of repair” (Lin, Otsu and Nakauchi 20110334). It must be clear that such a possibility of using stem cells is significant for medicine. Because of diseases, accident or any other reasons people could face with an issue of damaged tissues or even lost part of tissues of their organisms. Positive impact on natural mechanisms of repairing tissues can be beneficial for patients for faced with the issue mentioned above and their doctors. The possibility of reconstituting the tissue system is significant because reconstitute the different types of tissues allows to replenish human of organs that will allow patients to restore full capacity and function in society without any inconvenience. In this way, stem cells treatment is significant for regenerative medicine.
Considering the using stem cells treatment for reconstituting the human tissues one must especially notice that stem cells “maintain the ability to form cells ranging from muscle to nerve to blood – potentially any cell type that makes up the body” (Yu and Thomson). Such potential of stem cells treatment is significant for medicine and patients. Nowadays if a patient had lost a part of a body, the only potential replacement for him or her is an artificial limb. However, even though the field of a prosthesis is entirely developed in present time and some protests have functionality maximally approximate to the natural part of a body, yet that maximum approximation cannot be fully complete replacement taking into account at least a factor as skin sensitivity. Thus, stem cells treatment is necessary because the potential to reconstitute the part of a body with its full functionality and sensitivity. The importance only grows up if one takes into account the fact that there are parts of the body the prosthetics of which are not possible or cannot be approximated by the functional to the original parts of the body.
What is essential, the stem cells treatment can be useful not only in repairing different types of tissues but also in treatment the list of diseases. As the researchers noticed “neural stem cells have been isolated from post-mortem brain of Alzheimer’s patients” and “stem cells demonstrate robust disease-specific phenotypes in patients with schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease” (Mackay-Sim 1). One can notice that schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease refer to the type of disease for which modern medicine can slow the progression of the disease but not to treat it. In this way, the stem cells treatment is perspective for discovering the treatment of such illnesses as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease that is significant for the current healthcare.
As it was mentioned above, many types of the stem cells can be used in medicine for the different aims, related with the improving patient’s health. In this way, it must be clear that mental and similar diseases are not only one field of diseases for which the stem cells therapy can be used. The clinical trials have demonstrated “safety and beneficial effects in patients suffering from acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and dilated cardiomyopathy” and that “benefits include improved ventricular function, increased ejection fraction, and decreased infarct size” (Puliafico, Shannon, et al. 1353). In this way, the stem cells treatment can be beneficial for treating heart diseases. Not only the treatment of heart diseases but the generally positive impact of the stem cells on the system of the heart is necessary because it allows cure not only a patient but also prevents recurrence of the heart issues.
Moreover, stem cells therapy can be used not only for the treatment of mental and heart diseases. One more field where they can be useful is the treatment of bones and cartilages diseases. As the studies showed, the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) “has considerable potential for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders due to its ability to differentiate into bone and cartilage. Also, MSCs can be expanded easily in culture and have immunosuppressive properties, which raises the possibility of allogeneic off-the-shelf treatments” (O’Brien, Timothy, and Barry 860). Thus, stem cells therapy can be helpful is the cases of different musculoskeletal disorders. This can be especially important and perspectively in the context of the repairing ability of the stem cells.
There is one more field where the stem cells therapy can be used. It is a treatment of spinal cord diseases. The fact is that stem cells can be used to replace lost cells such as oligodendrocytes, neurons, motor neurons, and astrocytes which allow using them for treatment of injury and diseases of the spinal cord (Donnelly, Eleanor, et al. 1). One can notice that the spinal cord is an essential part of the human body and its state can affect human capacity and even a normal life in general. However, cure the injury and diseases of the spinal cord did not have the high level of development before, and the stem cells therapy opens new perspectives in this field.
Considering the perspectives of the stem cells therapy one must take into account the complexity of the human body. The positive results of treatment can have an impact on the whole body and development of the stem cells therapy in one field can also be important for another area. Thus, for example, “progress and advancements made within the field of spinal cord medicine will have positive ramifications in the larger stem cell field and numerous other disease states outside the central nervous system” (Donnelly, Eleanor, et al. 7). In this way, the advantage of the stem cells therapy is that positive results of it in the one friend can also be useful for other fields.
Even though the stem cells treatment has many advantages, it, like any other phenomenon, has its disadvantages. The researchers noticed that “the employment of hematopoietic stem cells, many other therapies have yet to be thoroughly proven for their therapeutic benefit and safety in application” (Lin, Otsu and Nakauchi 20110334). One can notice that this is not only the issue of the stem cells treatment. One can notice that modern medicine have quite rapid development. In this way, the stem cells treatment is not only one type of therapy which therapeutic benefit and safety are not proven because of the lack of time. A human body is quite a complex system. Any changes in it can lead to the consequences that can be found after years, decades or even more time since changes were made. Taking into account that the stem cells treatment is kind of treatment that was found relatively recently, it is clear that the consequences of it are insufficiently investigated.
As far as studying the stem cells treatment continues, there can be found some practical disadvantages of using the stem cells for treatment. Thus, the finding of the study made by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine means that “people who may one day be treated using pools of stem cells taken from many lines could reject them” (Swaminathan). The possibility of such result can be similar to results of human body’s interaction with the improper organs – body rejects impropriate an organ. The result with rejecting stem cells is quite essential and negative consequences. Such result negates all advantage of treatment if finally stem cells will be rejected. Moreover, the rejecting of stem cells can not only deny the effect of treatment but also lead to more negative consequences that those were before the treatment. Thus, a possibility of rejecting the stem cells is an important disadvantage of the stem cells treatment.
As the researchers noticed, among the challenges, related to the stem cells treatment are the practical issues of cost and reliable production (Mackay-Sim). As it was already mentioned above, the stem cells treatment is an entirely new kind of therapy, and the consequences of it are insufficiently investigated. In this way, it is quite clear that the process of production of the stem cells is also connected with the similar issue. As far as production of the stem cells is not yet established to such an extent which have products that appeared much earlier, it is clear that reliability of the stem cells will be a quite controversial issue. The issue of cost is related to the point of production. It is a common state of affairs that at the beginning of development the price for the production is higher than after the product is put on the flow and for its production, the best materials and methods are selected. In this way, cost and reliability of the stem cells treatment are a quite actual issue.
One can notice that except the practical and theoretical issues the stem cells treatment also has a point, related to moral aspect. As the researchers noticed, “embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos at a developmental stage before the time that implantation would normally occur in the uterus” (Yu and Thomson). It is known the fact that the question about incipience of life, related to the processes in a uterus is still controversial. Some people use the scientific approach in their views about life and its incipience, and thus they did not consider embryos as endowed with life. Other people another perspective on the incipience of life and consider embryos as endowed with life. Therefore, the latter kind of people will find the stem cells treatment as a negative phenomenon, because of using embryos that endowed with life.
One more disadvantage of the stem cells treatment is related to experimental practices of using the stem cells without preliminary verification of efficiency of those practices. Thus, “one of the most unfortunate therapeutic misadventures in contemporary times was the widespread use of autologous stem-cell transplantation to treat metastatic breast cancer, a practice ultimately shown to be ineffective, costly, and risky” (Marks, Peter, et al. 1008). Such case shows that in the practice of the stem cells treatment, as in any other healthcare practice, much attention must be paid to the previous efficiency check. Otherwise, the results can be similar to the results of the case shown above – costly, and risky but ineffective practices which even can hurt a patient instead of treating him or her.
The next disadvantage is related to the previous one. Besides, it can be more related to some precise moments and report. In any way, the issue is in the fact that the stem-cell therapies are associated with different adverse effects which are probably “more common than is appreciated because there is no reporting requirement when these therapies are administered outside clinical investigations” (Marks, Peter, et al. 1008). As it was mentioned above, the stem cells treatment practice effectiveness must be verified before a start of their widespread introduction into clinical practice. One more important point is that the results of verifying or any other experiments with the stem cells treatment must be reported to avoid the negative consequences of the probable incorrect stem cells treatment and an imaginary view of the stem cells treatment as a panacea. Thus, reporting requirement to the stem cells treatment administered outside clinical investigations is one more issue of this kind of treatment.
One more disadvantage is also related to the fact that stem-cell therapy is quite a new kind of treatment. Thus, the weakness of the stem-cell therapy is that “proper standardization and characterization of transplanted cell preparations have not yet been achieved. This is a serious impediment to the meaningful interpretation of the results of preclinical and early clinical studies” (O’Brien, Timothy, and Barry 860). In this way, the critical disadvantage of the stem-cell therapy is in the absence of standardization and characterization of preparations, using for this kind of treatment. The importance of this disadvantage becomes even more if consider it in the context of interpretation of the results of different kinds of clinical studies.
The facts shown above allow concluding that the stem cells treatment has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages, in general, are in the fact that the stem cells treatment is a quite perspective kind of therapy which can be useful for the different tissues and parts of the human body. The disadvantages, in general, are in the fact that the stem cells treatment is an entirely new kind of therapy, its standardization and characterization are not established yet, and this kind of treatment requires precautionary approach and preliminary checks.
Donnelly, Eleanor M et al. “Stem Cell Therapy For The Spinal Cord.” Stem Cell Research & Therapy, vol 3, no. 4, 2012, pp. 1-9.
Lin, H.-T., M. Otsu, and H. Nakauchi. “Stem Cell Therapy: An Exercise In Patience And Prudence.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 368.1609 (2013): 20110334.
Mackay-Sim, Alan. “Patient-Derived Stem Cells: Pathways To Drug Discovery For Brain Diseases.” Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 7 (2013): 1-10.
Marks, Peter W. et al. “Clarifying Stem-Cell Therapy’S Benefits And Risks.” New England Journal Of Medicine, vol 376, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1007-1009.
O’Brien, Timothy, and Frank P. Barry. “Stem Cell Therapy And Regenerative Medicine.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol 84, no. 10, 2009, pp. 859–861.
Puliafico, Shannon B. et al. “Stem Cell Therapy For Heart Disease.” Journal Of General Internal Medicine, vol 28, no. 10, 2013, pp. 1353–1363.
Swaminathan, Nikhil. “Body May Reject Transplanted Human Embryonic Stem Cells.” Scientific American. N.p., 2008. Web. 30 Aug. 2017.
Yu, Junying, and James A. Thomson. “Embryonic Stem Cells.” Stemcells.nih.gov. N.p., 2006. Web. 30 Aug. 2017.