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Radio Shows | Stem Cells: Possibilities and Problems | mp3wmawav

You've heard the controversy about stem cells. It's hard to imagine that a cell with such an innocent name would create the political upheaval and spirited debate going on today.

So let's talk about stem cells and their potential. The unique thing about them is that they can grow to become any specialized cell in the body. This is far different from the mature cells in our body which are "locked" into their defined functions. For example, a mature kidney or skin cell cannot become any other type of cell.

There are two types of stem cells. Adult stem cells are found only in certain tissue like bone marrow.

The other type, embryonic can become any cell in the body. Starting in the fertilized egg, embryonic stem cells receive and (respond to) molecular signals.

Researchers are just now beginning to understand those signals. They're what sends stem cells on a one way path to their ultimate identity and function, in say the heart or kidneys. As one airline puts it, they are now free to move about the body.

The use of embryonic stem cells is controversial because harvesting them destroys the embryos in the process. Scientists are now working on ways to selectively remove stem cells and leave the embryo intact.

The healing potential of stem cells is enormous. Imagine giving diabetic children the cells they need to make their own insulin. Cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and muscular dystrophy are all within reach using this technology.

But, before any of that can happen. the political and ethical conflicts need to be resolved. Until then, stem cell technology will remain an untapped, promising treatment.

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For more information...

The National Institutes of Health provides extensive information about stem cells and some of the potential uses for them in the treatment of human diseases here.

The University of Utah has an excellent stem cell information website that covers everything from what a stem cell is to how they can be used.

The New Scientist Magazine is a good resource for information on a whole host of topics including stem cells. For more information...

For more than three decades, NOVA has been unrivaled in bringing authoritative, innovative, and entertaining science documentaries to television. They also have an extensive website where there is some excellent information, videos and the politics of stem cell cloning.


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