Thursday, 22 September 2011
China "stem cell therapies" offer heartbreak
Chinese hotel manager Hong Chun had trouble using chopsticks after a minor stroke and sought treatment at a large Shanghai hospital where doctors injected what they said were donor stem cells into his spinal cord and buttocks, according to his father and cousin. Stem cells Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially 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 either to 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. Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions.