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Children's Health Issues to Watch: Tapping Into Stem Cell Potential

Tapping Into Stem Cell Potential

Scientists hope that stem cells, which hold the promise of repairing damaged or defective cells in the body, might cure and treat illnesses that affect millions of kids, including Crohn's disease, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries. While U.S. research continues to focus on the political, religious, and ethical aspects of stem cell research, scientists in all corners of the globe are exploring just how much potential stem cells hold.

Stem cells are unique because they can develop into lots of different types of cells in different parts of the body, and continue to produce new cells. Because of that, there’s hope that stem cells could, for instance, make insulin-producing cells for diabetes patients. But political debate has swirled around stem cell research, mostly around the issue of using stem cells from leftover embryos created for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics, which would have otherwise been discarded. Some feel that deriving stem cells this way is a destruction of life. Others are concerned that stem cell research will lead to human cloning. In 2006, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have allowed research on stem cells taken from IVF clinics. Even so, legislators continue to push to expand the boundaries for stem cell research, hoping that it will offer a variety of new cures, treatments, and hope for millions of families.

What to Watch:

As research around the globe continues, scientists and doctors will learn more about possible roles for stem cells in treating human diseases. The recent shift in the U.S. political climate may yield more latitude for conducting stem cell research here. Will this promising new approach really bring the breakthroughs that families affected by many chronic, devastating diseases hope? Initial results are promising, but only time will tell.

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Making Sense of Medical News
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