Longevity Through Stem Cells?

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Health & Wellness

The controversy of stem cells is currently a highlight among medical, political and legislative groups.

While research and arguments stir up around this issue, the underground world carries a small number of people who are actually using stem cells with success. 

In a 247-176 bipartisan vote, the House passed a bill that would allow federal funding of stem cell research utilizing donated human embryos. If signed into law, this bill would offer people with serious illnesses and life-threatening conditions such as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries the chance for a better life. The Senate passed a similar bill in April, reflecting the fact that an overwhelming majority of the public supports this research. But the legislation is almost certain to be vetoed by President George W. Bush.

Human Embryonic Stem cells have the distinguished potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

Scientists have only been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. Moreover, federal funds to support hESC research have only been available since August 9, 2001, when President Bush announced his decision on federal funding for hESC research.

Because many academic researchers rely on federal funds to support their laboratories, they are just beginning to learn how to grow and use the cells. Thus, although hESC are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its early stages. 

Adult stem cells such as blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs) are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSCs in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years.

More advanced techniques of collecting, or "harvesting," HSCs are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders. The clinical potential of adult stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases that include diabetes and advanced kidney cancer. However, these newer uses have involved studies with a very limited number of patients.

Scientists are reporting major advances toward a central goal of stem cell research: directly reprogramming fetal mouse cells so that they are indistinguishable from embryonic stem (ES) cells, according to Science Magazine. The technique, which they say should also work on adult cells, could one day enable researchers to generate cell lines tailored to individual patients without the use of eggs or embryos.

Research today has not come into the quantum age. If we can apply modern technological science with ancestral wisdom, we have an opportunity for success - holistically says, Dr. Deborah Bernal, an African American physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Washington, DC.
"Women are the majority of family caregivers, and the heartbreak of having a loved one with a debilitating illness and the related burden of their care could both be lifted with this bill," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Although George W. Bush seems stubbornly bent on pleasing his right-wing base, we urge him not to choose religious and political extremism over medical progress. We must continue to change the face of politics so that our leaders will put our health, our families and our well-being at the top of the nation's priorities," said Gandy. 

Angelique Shofar is a wellness & lifestyle coach, yoga teacher and reflexologist. She is a freelance multi-media consultant in the Washington, DC area. Send her an email at
spiritwellness2020@yahoo.com. Visit her online at www.spiritofwellness.org



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