Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Extraneous Metamorphism Does Little to Mend Internal Strife

II.  Who Is This Monster in the Mirror, and What Have You Done With My New Lips?

The prestige of cosmetic surgery began to rise during the late 1960s and early 1970s and medical advancement grew and the emergence of the "self-esteem" generation begins to take hold, of which there is a full emanation come the 1980s- or the era of "Me. From the first breast augmentation in 1895 to the first plastic surgery instruction by french surgeon Dr. Hippolyte Morestin during the first World War, the desire for humanity to physically alter their appearance is not as unique a trait of our post-modern, transgression generation as we would of thought. After Dr. Hippolyte Morestin's efforts, cosmetic surgery steadily grew until it became fully integrated into medical institutions by 1959, but it climbed to pragmatic heights after the invention of the Silicon breast implant in 1962. 
However,  what at first glance seems like a simple easy solution to self-improvement, a study done in 2009 yields evidence to support the claim by many that cosmetic surgery does little to fix the preexisting psychological conditions driving many individuals to go under the knife.  It goes without saying that a quick decision to change a reflection in a mirror is going to do little to the real problems that dwell just beneath the surface. Yes, there are many success stories of plastic surgery,  but it is when we let our patients make life-altering decisions with an unhealthy mind the ethical sanctity of the medical profession hangs in the balance.  

Early cosmetic surgery advertisement from 1890s

In the 2009 article "The Effects of Cosmetic Surgery on Body Image,  Self-Esteem, and Psychological Problems" published by T. von Soest, I.L. Kvalem, H.E. Roald, and K.C. Skolleborg, they conduct an experiment via a questionnaire from 155 female patients six months after their cosmetic sugery. Results yielded an improvement of body image but no change was apparent in relation to the psychological conditions the patients had preoperation. "Postoperative measures of appearance satisfaction, self-esteem, and psychological problems did not differ from values derived from the comparison sample," (von Soest etc al. 2009). Because the patients sought out cosmetic surgery in order to fix whatever it was about themselves they considered to be a problem, once they realize the problem is still there,  they aremore likelyto repeat process to search for a new solution. This is how cosmetic surgery addiction has found itself among a hord of new age self-inflections that really takes the "finding that next fix" component to an entirely different level. 

We find ourselves in a generation that can examine the long term results cosmetic surgery has on its patients, both the good and bad,  healthy and unhealthy alike. A recent example would be the extreme long-term physical (and hypothetically as a result from this-psychological) transformation of celebrity Bruce Jenner. 

After his face became a staple of the Wheaties box and he was thrown into the realm of reality television stardom from his marriage to Kris Kardashian,  Bruce Jenner has struggled to keep his body image culturally relevant for nearly the last two decades. There has been recent tabloid buzz of Jenner's long-term battle with depression and body image and how he has made the recent decision to undergo transgendered cosmetic surgery. In a recent article by false gender transformation activist and author Walt Heyer, he relates his own story to that of Jenner's by stating,  "Bruce’s desire to be a woman could be the result of the adult onset of a disorder in his psyche triggered by traumatic events," and that after he underwent gender transformation, Heyer was diagnosed with dissociative disorder- "The underlying disorder was appropriately treated, my desire to change genders faded away like a mist in the bright light of day. One of the hardest things was to admit to myself, my family, and my friends that the whole surgical change had been unnecessary."  Hopefully Bruce Jenner is making a decision that will alow him to live with "herself", but this is why certain psychological disorders need to be addressed and treated prior to operation when the very permanent results take effect. Cosmetic surgeons and spokespersons should make treatment and information regarding psychological conditions regarding personality, body image, and self-esteem avaliable to prospective clients. This way individuals are aware that the very painful process of cosmetic transformation not only permanently affects the physical self, but the psychological self as well. 

Tune in next time for: Rehabilitation of Self Image- Solutions to Decisions Made in Vainity


Euthanasia Blog Post #3

While euthanasia presents many dilemmas to face there is also hope and potential solutions to many of these issues. As far as the misdiagnosis aspect of euthanasia is concerned it is possible to enact some form of advisory board of doctors, medical specialists and judges. This panel would be able to view and analyze each case to ensure that proper measures and tests had been run on the patient and that announcements as far as expected time left were as close as possible. While this may seem like a convoluted solution it seems like the safest way to ensure that euthanasia was only being offered to those that truly qualified. The worse thing that could happen would be people abusing euthanasia whether through elder abuse, financial reasons or using the system as a way of suicide. Another possible preventative measure to ensure the correct use of euthanasia would potentially be using social workers to work closely with the family to ensure that the patient was not being pressured into making a decision they were not comfortable with. With these measures in place euthanasia can be a far safer and more accessible option to those who wish to have access to it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Should FDA makes Experimental drugs Available for Terminally ill patients ? Or the “Right to Try”

Should FDA makes Experimental drugs Available for Terminally ill patients ? Or the “Right to Try”

Advertising & The Physician-Patient Relationship, Part II: Pharmaceutical Advertising

A couple of years ago, I attended a lecture by Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt. One of his significant areas of research involves analyzing how pharmaceutical advertising of the nineteenth century has influenced patient care by exploiting gender- and race-based stereotypes that persist in American culture as a whole. Dr. Metzl convincingly argues that pharmaceutical ads “posit prescription medications as treatments for ‘social’ problems as well as medical ones.”

For example, marketing campaigns for antidepressants, particularly Prozac (fluoxetine), throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century often capitalized on society’s perception of women as moody and irrational. Additionally, ads specifically targeting women suggested, either directly or indirectly, that taking Prozac could help them remain “youthful and attractive” by taking “just a couple at bedtime.” Shudder.

Equally shudder-inducing were the racially-charged Haldol (haloperidol) ads that appeared in psychiatric journals during the 1960s-70s, at which time the Black Power movement was much in the public eye. Dr. Arturo Baiocchi explains it best: “The ad compels psychiatrists to conflate black anger as a form of threatening psychosis and mental illness.”

It is misleading and unjust for pharmaceutical ads to conflate social stereotypes with a medical issue that requires therapeutic intervention. Although the ads pictured above would never be permitted in the current age, Dr. Metzl suggests that physicians should be acutely aware of modern social tensions in order to guard against being unduly influenced by pharmaceutical ads that may be designed to appeal to social prejudices.

http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.mtsu.edu/science/article/pii/S0277953603003691 (not open access, unfortunately, but accessible through the MTSU library website)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Designer Babies Blog Post 2

Potential Downfalls of Designer Baby Genetic Screening

In doing research for arguments against designer babies, I have found a few viewpoints that seem rooted in logic that I will discuss.

1) They may create a weak species.

I know, I know, this seems contradictory. I would immediately guess that designer babies would create a superior species, wouldn't you? It certainly may produce a population of people that are taller, faster, and stronger, but genetic diversity is of paramount importance to the longevity of a species.

Genetic diversity allows a species to survive changes in environmental stressors. For humans, these could be any number of things: from global warming, from decreased food supply/variety, or of particular importance from microbial threats (pathogens). The immune system in particular is especially strengthened by parents sharing genetically diverse genomes, which combine in the offspring to produce a greater variety of "specialized" immune cells that can sense pathogenic threats. 

A species lacking in genetic diversity contains a smaller pool of potential genetic advantages against changes in the environment. Those people susceptible to sunburn would function poorly in tropical or arid climates. Those people lacking in strength or athletic ability would find hunting more difficult if it ever again became a commonplace practice to acquire food.

2) It may create an underclass of non-designers, widening the rift between upper and lower class.

Anyone seen GATTACA?


Make sure to check it out sometime. Men (and ladies, if it's your thing), Uma Thurman is in it, so it has that going for it. Likewise, ladies (and dudes on that side), it stars a double threat of Jude Law AND Ethan Hawke. Perhaps most importantly, it sports an IMDB score of 7.8, making it a Top 5000 movie.

Designer babies would come at a price. Most likely, that price would be quite significant. This is the primary reason many are against this practice. The wealthy and poor are already quite divided in society; this would produce an even wider gap, with the wealthy perpetuating their own advantage from birth, and the poor becoming even further disadvantaged.

Perhaps the best method to promote these procedures would be to not "release" technology until it was cheap enough for the majority to afford. Otherwise, it may need to be covered under insurance policies, and I don't see that happening.

Some additional links to check out:






In this second installment we will take a closer look at just how revolutionary Farber’s treatment was and how quickly it offered relief to the children in his care.  One case, as outlined by the New England Journal of Medicine (click here to read the article: http://bit.ly/1DIjw5x) of a boy referred to simply as W.G., is particularly instructive.  The boy was seven and a half years old when he was admitted to the hospital in 1947.  He presented with complaints of joint pain and fever, and subsequent bone marrow biopsy confirmed that the child had leukemia.  Within weeks the boy was started on a regiment of pteroylaspartic acid administered daily.  This continued for about a month, in which time the child was active, but tests continued to show high white blood cell counts.  A short while later he was started on a treatment consisting of daily doses of diopterin.  Over the month-long course of this treatment the child’s condition gradually declined.  His liver and spleen, which had been only mildly enlarged at the time of his admission, had become quite enlarged, and he became very anemic.  Other medications and blood transfusions were administered, but eight months after his initial admission into the hospital, the child’s condition had seriously deteriorated.
It was at this point, in late 1947, that aminopterin began to be administered on a daily basis.  After only two weeks the boy’s white-cell count had fallen from 60,000 to an astonishing 19,000.  His condition again worsened as a result of his leaving the hospital and not receiving the same regiment of aminopterin, but after returning to the hospital the treatment again proved efficacious, reducing a white-cell count now at 78,000 all the way down to 5,000 after only ten days.  While the child took some time to fully recover, he did again regain his strength and appetite, and the report concludes by saying that the boy – now man – is still alive today.

In the third and final installment we will delve back into the life of Sydney Farber, and see that his work for the fight against cancer continued in different ways throughout his life.  If you haven’t watched the Ken Burn’s doc Cancer: Emperor of all Maladies yet, here’s the link again: http://bit.ly/1EffZz7.



I recently watched the Ken Burns series entitled Cancer: Emperor of all Maladies on PBS, and it brought me face to face with the risk that has been required to advance our medical capabilities to their current levels.  The story of Sidney Farber I found particularly compelling, as well as profoundly heartbreaking.  Compelling because Farber achieved great success in the battle against cancer.  Heartbreaking because Farber’s patients were children suffering with a then-incurable – and consistently fatal – disease.  My posts will focus on Sidney Farber, his life, and his incredible contributions to the field of cancer research.
Farber was born in Buffalo, New York on 30 September 1903.  In the 1920s Jews were still often refused admission to medical schools, and so Farber spent his first year of medical school in Germany.  I find this interesting because, in the following decades, those roles would be reversed, as Jews found greater mobility in the United States, even as their very right to exist would be challenged in Germany.  However, Farber excelled in his studies to such a great degree that in his second year he was accepted into Harvard Medical School, where he would graduate in 1927.
After a stint at what is today Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he trained as a pathologist, he became a resident at Boston Children’s Hospital, and eventually the hospital’s first full-time pathologist in 1929.  Farber cared for children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, a devastating cancer of the blood.  At that time ALL had a one hundred percent mortality rate.  The children usually died within three months of admission and in agonizing pain for which little relief could be offered.  The dire situation faced by these children drove Farber to undertake what was an incredible risk, that of injecting children with poisonous chemicals.  In 1947 three year old Robert Sandler of Dorchester became the first child to receive Farber’s chemical – or chemo – therapy.  The idea was to poison the cancer with aminopterin, a highly experimental drug.  While not the first attempt to battle cancer with chemicals, Sidney Farber’s treatment would be the first to prove efficacious.

In the next post we will look at the impact of Farber’s treatment, a breakthrough that earned him the title “Father of Modern Chemotherapy.”  In the meantime, check out the documentary here: http://bit.ly/1EffZz7

Medical Marijuana Post II

Most of the time when someone is asked their opinion on medical marijuana they say that they are against it because marijuana is a bad “gateway” drug. This is a real life story of how CBD-rich cannabis helped a young girl overcome her seizures due to epilepsy. This story is meant to educate people on how this drug, when used medically instead of recreationally, can benefit the sick and to give people an idea of what medical marijuana can do before the discussion on whether it is ethical or not, which will be my last blogpost. 
Charlotte Figi had her first seizure when she was 3 months old. Over the next few months, the girl, affectionately called Charlie, had frequent seizures lasting two to four hours, and she was hospitalized repeatedly.The seizures were so severe Charlotte's heart stopped a number of times. Doctors suggested putting the child in a medically induced coma to give her small, battered body a rest.

Matt and Paige Figi have three kids; a son named max and twins chase and charlotte. Charlotte began having seizures at just three months old which either lasted more than 30 minutes or occurred one after another. The parents got many opinions from many doctors and at age two was diagnosed with Dravet, a very severe form of epilepsy. Charlotte was on about seven different drugs, many of them highly addictive, which controlled her seizures for a while, but eventually came back much more violent than before. The family then tried the Ketogenic Diet which is a high fat diet with little carbohydrates. This diet forces the body to make extra ketones which are natural chemicals that suppress seizures. This helped but caused many bad side effects such as bone loss and it caused her immune system to plummet. Soon charlotte lost the ability to walk, eat, and speak. The family lost hope and signed a do-not-resuscitate form for when her seizures caused another heart attack as they often did. Matt Figi then found a video of a California boy who successfully treated Dravet with cannabis. The Figi’s, who voted against medical marijuana, decided to give it a try. They obtained two ounces and gave it to Charlotte in small doses. After the first dose the seizures stopped for a full seven days. The Figi’s then found the Stanly brothers who were large marijuana growers and dispensary owners. These brothers had a strain of marijuana with low THC and high CBD that they did not know what to do with. After meeting with Charlotte they agreed to help her cause and named their strand of cannabis after Charlotte and started the Realm of Caring Foundation. This no-profit organization provided cheap cannabis for people who can’t afford it. Charlotte is now eight years old and only has two or three seizures a month usually in her sleep and is able to walk, talk, and even ride a bicycle. Hopefully this story will help people form an opinion of whether or not medical cannabis is ethical. 

The marijuana strain Charlotte and others use to help their symptoms has been named after her. It's called Charlotte's Web.
"I literally see Charlotte's brain making connections that haven't been made in years," Matt Figi said of his daughter. "I want other people, other parents, to know that this is a viable option.",

An Interview With the French Author Who Has Happiness Figured Out

For decades, the French have ranked among the world's most pessimistic people, so it's fitting — in a life-is-a-farce-and maybe-also-merde kind of way — that a Frenchman should write a provocative, possibly even helpful, book about happiness. Frederic Lenoir's Happiness: A Philosopher's Guide was a best seller when it was released in France last fall, and this month, it's been published here, in English, courtesy of Melville House.


Moral Improvement (II of III)

The majority of moral theories propose that people often have bad or a low standard of good morals which can be a large contributor to most of the world’s contemporary issues. Since successful living in this world requires a group effort, it becomes obvious that these moral defects are problems in need of fixing.

As society has industrialized, morals have been an important teaching of society. Previously we have incorporated moral education to help improve moral standards of our society and teach individuals the necessity of morals in the contemporary world. More recently, scientists have researched and developed technology – particularly in the fields of neurobiology and genetics – that have allowed us to manipulate the human mind in terms of moral improvement. These tactics include drugs, gene selection, and external technology that can influence the brain to act in favorable ways.

But these moral deficits do not have an easy fix, as it becomes unclear of what psychological aspects of the mind for each person, who have their own situation and career, are in need of moral enhancements to help improve them.

Two vastly different personality types would argue which motives are morally good and to what degree. One may argue it is best to be motivated by systematic beliefs formed from deduction and reasoning, and take actions that will give good consequences. The opposing opinion may claim people should be motivated by emotions and take actions that are in line with certain values.

Also, for those receiving moral enhancement treatments, we would be unable to define what motives, morals, or personality types are the “good ones”. Each person is different and will see good motive and what counts as improvement of their own morals differently from others. For example, a lawyer may need to acquire a logical, legal reasoning while a mother would need a more loving and caring nature.

Each of these people are different and it is difficult to conclude one definition of good morals that will best benefit them and help them benefit society.

Links for further reading:

Moral Enhancement

Philosophy Now

Manipulating morals: scientists target drugs that improve behavior

The Aging Mind: How changes in the brain affect perception and cognitive skills?

As you age, changes occur in the different part of the body in conjunction with the brain. Some parts of the brain get smaller such as our frontal lobe (executive functions) and hippocampus. Modifications in the neurons and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) can affect efficient communication between neurons. You can have changes in the blood vessels of the brain, which may be caused by less capillary growth. You may have increased damage from free radicals that are nitrogen or oxygen molecules that links quickly with other molecules. This can easily damage the neuron’s cell membrane. Inflammation may increase due to abnormal changes in the body.

Mental functions are affected as you age such as the ability to learn and retrieve information.  The experience and knowledge you gained are still there as you age. "Dr. Denise C. Park, director of the Roybal Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Illinois, explains that knowledge and experience are protected as you age...'when you're performing a complex task,' she says, 'your memory may be less efficient, but your knowledge about how to do it may be better'" (MedincineNet). People may believe that older people cannot perform complex tasks of, learning, memory, and attention but people forget the power of the human brain to adapt to changes. “However, if given enough time to perform the task, the scores of healthy people in their 70s and 80s are often similar to those of young adults” (NIH National Institute of Aging).

As older people age, they often improve in other cognitive regions, such as terminology and other forms of verbal knowledge. Researchers cannot fully understand it. One idea is that as you age, the brain tries to draw connections and alternative brain networks to compensate for the inability of particular regions of the brain that a person might face when they age. This theory is based on the plasticity of the brain and the adaptive capabilities of the brain. There are also other factors that affect the likelihood of a cognitive healthy mind as you age such as your overall health, environment, lifestyle, and genetics plays a significant role.

One of the key concepts is the term “cognitive reserve”.

Cognitive reserve refers to the brain’s capability to function with significant success even when some ability and skills may be dislocated or disrupted.
The cognitive reserve also refers to how much damage the brain can withstand before modifications and changes in awareness are apparent. People differ in the amount of cognitive reserve they have, and this unevenness may be because of variances in genetics, academic training, profession, routine, hobbies, or other life experiences. These factors play a role in how the brain can adapt and tolerate changes as we age. The cognitive reserve can explain why some people remain cognitively healthy as they get older while others develop the cognitive deficiency.

Our brain may affect how we view aging and how we age well. By letting your brain stay active you are helping it build more knowledge and cognition as you age. But your experiences in life also affect how you age because the brain relies on those experiences and relationships. The human mind is a beautiful thing.


Euthanasia Blog Post #2

There are many concerns surrounding euthanasia with many different viewpoints. Many people are worried that with euthanasia there is a high risk for elder abuse to take place. This essentially boils down to the worry that many families have that their elder relatives may be bullied or pressured into using euthanasia as an option. This would be detrimental as it would push many people to make a decision that they had not intended to make and places a moral dilemma on euthanasia. Elder abuse has been viewed as one of the main concerns against allowing euthanasia to be federally legal in the United States.
Furthermore many people worry that patients may choose to use euthanasia as it is the cheapest option available to them versus the costly treatments associated with cancer and other terminally ill conditions. This issue is often related to the worry with elder abuse as families will push their older relatives towards euthanasia rather than use inheritance money to pay for their treatment. This is a worrisome trend as the choice to die should be a voluntary choice and not something that a patient should be coerced into by family members. Many families may view the option of an earlier death as a far more attractive option for the family as a whole while disregarding the wishes of the terminally ill family member. This would be a detrimental consequence of euthanasia being legalized as it would go against the core idea of giving the sick person control over their own personal wishes up to and including the choice of dying with dignity. In forcing someone to choose to die you essentially take away their dignity and cause them in some ways a more undignified death in that not only sickness killed them but the autonomy was stripped entirely from them.

Another problem that is often approached when looking at the issue of euthanasia is the fact that even the best doctors are prone to make a few mistakes over the course of their careers. The problem with this is that misdiagnosis could lead a patient who might have been able to recover from their illness to seek out euthanasia as an option when in fact they would have been able to overcome their illness. This is a disturbing idea of a patient ending their life when correct diagnosis or treatment may have been able to prevent an early death. Of course many doctors would have their diagnosis looked at by many specialists before coming on a final conclusion on whether or not to allow a patient access to euthanasia. The problem that has become apparent in Oregon since the passing of Oregon Death with Dignity Act is that some patients will actually end up “doctor shopping” that is searching around for a doctor that will give them the diagnosis or the medication that they desire. In the case of euthanasia a doctor that will allow the patient to take part in the Death with Dignity act course. This is a disturbing trend as emotions run high in families undergoing terminal illnesses and thus you could expect that some patients may make decisions that are very emotionally charged instead of thinking and weighing all of their options thoroughly.


Posted for Ramsey Ferguson

This post will focus primarily on the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990.  This is where

congress declared anabolic steroids a schedule III controlled substance.  This puts steroids in

the same class as Vicodin, LSD precursors, and some veterinary tranquilizers.  There is a

specified difference between charges on personal use and intent to distribute, but this can be

skewed sometimes because while many drugs are bought and sold in small amounts where it is

more easily determined whether there is intent to distribute or not, that is not the case with

steroids. Steroids are generally bought per cycle or per couple cycles.  This means that an

individual could have massive amounts of steroids for personal use of one or a couple cycles

and it would be hard to differentiate between personal use and intent to sell.  

Many medical professionals from the FDA, DEA, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and

even the American Medical Association were called on to speak at the congressional hearings

leading up to the Steroid Control Act of 1990. Their evidence and arguments were disregarded

when congress didn’t hear what they wanted to hear. These professionals didn’t agree with

anabolic steroids being classified this way based on medical evidence, statistics, and personal

accounts, but the scare of steroids was enough to override the evidence presented to them.

That doesn’t make much sense, but time and time again throughout the semester we

have looked at examples of how what people don’t understand scares them, and often times

they are too stubborn to look at the facts that lay before them and see that some claims don’t

match reality.

The studies done on anabolic steroids seem to point towards the same conclusion that the

mental risks are greater than the physical risks when taking steroids.  There have been several

cases where a person committed suicide after taking steroids, but that makes me wonder if the

underlying depression or causes of suicide where there prior to taking the steroids.  Maybe

those psychological issues led to them being unhappy and taking steroids because they

believed that an enhanced physique would bring them happiness? That is purely speculation,

but does seem viable.




Stem Cells (Blog Post #3)

Ethical issues concerning stem cells. (Blog post #3)

Of course, as with any new development of scientific research, there are ethical issues that surround stem cell research. The main ethical debate revolves around the use of embryos as a source of stem cells. In order to obtain embryonic stem cells, the early embryo must be destroyed. This raises the issue of destroying a potential human life, much the same as the issue regarding abortion. Therefore, one must choose between two main moral principles: the duty to prevent or alleviate suffering, or the duty to respect the value of human life. Is it more important to use embryonic stem cells as a method to help alleviate the sufferings of people with diseases? Or is the destroying of a potential human life not worth the possible benefits? In order to have this debate, however, the issue of what we consider to be a human being must be addressed. Does an embryo have the status of a person?

The two arguments are as follows:

One side states that an embryo has full moral status as soon as fertilization occurs. Since human development is a continuous process, the exact moment of when an embryo should be considered a person is arbitrary and cannot be pinpointed. A human embryo is a human being in the embryo stage, just as a human infant is a human being in the infant stage. Even if the embryo does not currently possess all characteristics of a human, it will become a person and should therefore be given the full dignity of a person.

The other side argues that an early embryo that has not been implanted into the uterus does not have any of the physical, emotional, or psychological properties that are associated to what makes a person a person. Therefore, we should not ignore the potential of using these embryos as a way to benefit patients, who are persons. Something that could potentially become a person should not be treated as a person.

Thus, the issue of using embryonic stem cells to help treat diseases is a widely discussed and ethically fueled debate. As technology and research continues to develop, more and more ethical and moral dilemmas are bound to be created, and the fine line between science and morality will continue to blur.

Links for this discussion:

EuroStemCell Foundatio
Family Research Council

Stem Cells (Blog Post #2)

Potential uses for stem cells. (Blog post #2)

Firstly, studying the mechanisms and biology of stem cells can provided detailed information into how human development works. Understanding how undifferentiated cells can develop into all the different types of cells in the human body can provide information about certain diseases that occur from abnormal cell differentiation and division, such as cancer and birth defects. In addition, having a more complete understanding of these processes can lead to the development of better treatments and therapies for various diseases.

Human stem cells are also being used to test the effects of new drugs and pharmaceuticals. The cell lines that are grown from stem cells can be used to test specific activity of medications, such as testing a cancer cell line with an anti-tumor drug. The use of stem cells would allow for the testing of a vast variety of cell types and allow for the development of more efficient treatments and cures without risking the lives of test subjects. Of course, this process is not as easy as it seems. Scientists must be able to control the settings and conditions of the stem cells to be identical for each drug test; otherwise, the experiment becomes corrupted with other variables and can lead to inaccurate results. Lack of full understanding of certain cell pathways and mechanisms makes controlling every aspect of a cell’s components and environment a daunting task.

The most important application of stem cells is the potential to grow complete sets of tissues and organs in the laboratory from stem cells. While many people donate their organs after they die, the demand far outweighs the supply. In addition, the risk of rejection of the transplanted organ is a significant problem that many times creates an obstacle for helping patients who need the transplant. Thus, by utilizing the abilities of stem cells to differentiate into any type of cell, transplanting organs could become a widely available and safe procedure.

For example, it may be possible to generate healthy heart muscle cells in the laboratory from stem cells and then transplant those cells into a patient who suffers from chronic heart disease. Or patients with type 1 diabetes, whose pancreatic cells that produce insulin are destroyed by their own body’s defenses, could have insulin producing cells transplanted into their pancreas to help combat the autoimmune disease. In addition, if one’s own somatic stem cells are used for the transplants, the risk of rejection would be minimal. These ideas demonstrate the wide variety of medical applications that can arise from the development and ongoing research of stem cells. 

Link for this discussion:
National Institute of Health