Cell Differentiation and Stem Cells

Ashley Anchundia and Kierstin Rosipal

Cell Differentiation

Cell Differentiation is the process when one cell that is very simple develops into more complex cells that can do more functions. This happens in a embryo that can go from one simple cell to a multicellular organism with most of the human functions in a matter of nine months. When a stem cell divides into another cell, the cell can either stay a stem cell or it can develop to have a new specific function different from the previous stem cell. The process of meiosis begins this cell differentiation and then mitosis takes over to copy cells over time. The DNA sequence never changes during this process.
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Stem Cells

Stem Cells are unspecialized cells that are able to develop by mitosis into many different types of specialized cells. These cells are able to have their own function in the human body. There are two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic cells develop in the embryo. When the cells are clumped together, they do not remain unspecialized and create an embryonic body. The adult stem cells are meant to replenish and repair an adults tissue. Although the DNA is rarely ever changed during the cells' division, they can be changed by certain gene expression, which means that certain genes can be turned on and off at different times causing different types of cells such as nerve, heart, and muscle.

In a laboratory, scientists can do many different types of tests on cells in order to determine how stem cells function. They can observe a cell over a period of time (usually over several months) to determine if there is long term growth and self renewal. Also by looking through a microscope they can see if the cell had remained undifferentiated or not. They can also observe the cell to see if any transcription factors have changed and if any genes have been turned on or off. Also, under a microscope, they can observe the cell to see if the number of chromosomes have been changed or if they have been damaged in any way.

The research or embryonic stem cells can help scientists develop treatments for people with serious diseases or can try to also heal wounds. There a several questions that come up when talking about human embryonic stem cell research such as:

  1. Can a human embryonic stem cell ever be destroyed?
  2. Can humans benefit from the destruction of these embryos?
  3. Can we create a human embryo and destroy it?
  4. Are we able to clone a human embryo?

A lot of ethical and religious issues come up when the research of embryonic cells come into place. Abortion, a very controversial topic, is often related to the study of these cells, causing conflict and moral issues in the research.

Although morals are often brought up regarding scientists who study stem cells, their discoveries can help improve medical care and treatments dramatically. They can find treatments to numerous genetic disorders and also try to figure out treatments to cancer and birth defects. They can also form new cells and tissue for injured people and can benefit diseases such as type 1 diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson's' disease and burn victims.