Pamu: Hey Viru, how are you doing?
Viru: Hello, I am fine. What about you?
Pamui: I am doing fine.
Viru: Now, tell me what is it that you want to discuss with me? Any topic that has caught your attention…
Pamu: Ha… there is one topic that has caught my attention.
Viru: Then tell me, what is it?
Pamu: Today, I want to discuss about stem cells. Do you know anything about it?
Viru: I have heard about it. It is emerging field in medicine field. It is said that it has the potential to cure diseases which seems incurable till now like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease and so on..
Pamu: Ha even I have heard that. But what is stem cell?
Viru: As far as I know, we can consider it as the basic raw material of our body structure, from which our body, organs, bones, tissues etc., emerges.
Pamu: Like brick in the construction sector…
Viru: Well.. I cannot exactly say that. But kind of brick of our body, just like it is basic material for the construction of structure. But not exactly like the brick.
Pamu: Then what is special about stem cell?
Viru: Stem cell is the kind of cell generated in our body. It is the basic type which means that it can convert into other special type of cell. In medical terminology it is called as undifferentiated type of cell which can become specialised type of cell.
Pamu: I did not get it…
Viru: Ok fine. I knew it would happen. Look in our body we have different organs like brain, liver, heart and so on.. We also have bones, tissues etc.,
Pamu: Yes, we do have all above mentioned things in our body.
Viru: Now, know that each of the organ say brain has unique brain cells of which brain is made of… Heart is made up of heart cells.. and likewise in case of other parts…
Pamu: Yes then…
Viru: Here, brain cell cannot be converted into heart or other type of cell and vice versa..
Pamu: But why is that?
Viru: Because they are specialised cells having their unique function. Like brain cell will perform brain related functions and so on.
Pamu: Ok… but what it has got to do with the stem cell?
Viru: Unlike specialised cells, stem cells are undifferentiated or not specialized. They can be converted into any other type of cell like brain cell, liver cell and so on. They themselves do not have any special function. But they can be converted into one to make them perform the special cell.
Pamu: Ok.. Now I got it.
They are basic constituent cells into our body. From stem cells other cells are made. Am I right?
V:iru Ha… you mean to say that all other cells are made from stem cells.. that is true as far as I know about stem cells.
Pamu: But what benefit does it provide to us?
Viru: It has huge potential P. As we discussed stem cell can be made to form any special cell. Imagine, where damaged organs are being repaired by injecting stem cells. Like if liver is damaged them stem cells can be infused. They turn themselves and multiply to form liver cells. By doing so they can repair the damaged liver. Same can be done in case of other body parts.
Pamu: Ohhh.. that would be great. Then I believe instead of organ transplantation, which is very difficult procedure with high risk, stem cells can repair those organs without need of transplantation.
Viru: Ha that is right.
Pamu: So stem cells therapy is kind of regenerative medicine.
Viru: Yes.. it is. Because it regenerates the damaged part or organs.
Pamu: If it is made available then this therapy can treat multiple diseases as we discussed earlier.
Viru: Not only that stem cells have various other uses. Like, stem cells can be used to study diseases.
Pamu: And how is that so?
Viru: The growth of stem cells can be observed. I think they can be manipulated to grow is specific cell, which in turn can be observed and studied for a particular disease. It is important to understand the diseases and also it’s solution.
Pamu: That would be great. Many diseases remain mystery. Without proper diagnosis it becomes difficult to treat the disease.
Viru: Certainly, stem cells can help us to study several diseases.
Pamu: Then, we can also test medicines using stem cells, can’t we?
Viru: Yes we can. And that is great use of it. With it we can take more risks. We may need not test new formulations of humans, rather on stem cells.
Pamu: It would help avoid harms to humans as well as animals.
Viru: you are right.
Pamu: But, is this therapy risk free?
Viru: I cannot exactly say that. Still this is emerging field. There is need of detailed study for any negative consequences.
Other than risk, there is ethical issue regarding it’s use.
Viru: It is in case of the embryonic stem cells. It is because cells are extracted from embryo. Various opponents consider it as killing of the foetus.
Pamu: Is there no other way to extract those cells?
Viru: Yes there it is. Cells can be extracted from adults. But..
Pamu: But what?
Viru: adult cells are not like embryonic one
Viru: Adult stem cell can only be converted into one specific type of specialised cell. While embryonic one can be converted into any type.
Pamu: Ohh that… So adult cells have limited use.
Viru: Yes if we compare with that of embryonic ones.
Also embryonic cells are kind of pure. I mean they ate not adulterated by environment if made on laboratory.
Pamu: Isn’t there any other way to convert adult cells into embryonic one.
Viru: Embryonic cells are called pluripotent cells because of its ability to differentiate into multiple types of special cells.
In case of adult cells scientists have found the method to convert adult cells into pluripotent cells. They are called as induced pluripotent cells.
Pamu: ohhh great. Then that hurdle is removed.
Viru: Ha… but yet feasibility of such cells are being studied.
Pamu: I hope they prove feasible. This therapy will help save numerous lives. I hope it will come to fruition the earliest.
Viru: Yes… but currently there are cost related issues. It is very costly. It will take some time for it to become cheaper.
Pamu: Ha it happens till scale increases.
Viru: Yes. There is also need of proper regulations, global as well as national because many stem cell clinics have emerged in recent times. Hence proper regulation is the need of the time to prevent any adverse reaction.
Pamu: Yes… regulation is necessary.
Viru: I hope all stakeholders will sit together to develop healthy regulations by keeping interest of all the stakeholder in the mind, with highest consideration to the safety.
Pamu: Yes they will. Considering it’s huge potential it should be regulated in the public interest.
Viru: Anyway we should hope best. I hope stem cell therapy at feasible rate becomes reality for the benefit of the humanity.
Pamu: Certainly, I hope the same.