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Adult vs. Embryonic Stem Cells

Author: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 6 June 2014 | commentsComment
 
Stem Cells Adult Embryonic Rejection

Research has been ongoing now for years as scientists have tried to determine whether stem cells from adult tissues have the same capabilities and potential as embryonic stem cells. Studies are constantly revealing new information and it is hoped that therapeutic applications will be developed from both sources. The question, however, perhaps remains: which source holds the advantage?

Development Potential

Adult stem cells are generally less flexible and versatile than embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have a far greater differentiation potential than adult stem cells simply because embryonic stem cells can develop into almost every type of cell in the human body. Conversely, adult stem cells may only develop into a limited number of cell types, so their potential applications are not as great as embryonic stem cells. Newer studies do, however, suggest that adult stem cells may have greater plasticity than was originally thought, which means that they may be able to differentiate into a greater range of specialized cell types. At present, however, it would appear that embryonic stem cells still have the advantage in their ability to differentiate more readily than adult stem cells.

Is More Better?

In the case of stem cells, the answer is yes, assuming that more stem cells still means viable, high quality ones. Embryonic stem cells are capable of almost unlimited division, or proliferation, when placed in a culture whereas adult stem cells do not multiply so readily. The difficulty level varies as well; embryonic stem cells can be grown fairly easily in the laboratory whereas adult stem cells are not easily grown after isolation from mature adult tissues. Stem cell replacement therapies require large numbers of cells and the current difficulty in growing large numbers of adult cells means that their use for therapy at present is limited.

Effect on Recipient's Immune System

Adult stem cells hold a distinct advantage in that a patient's own cells are identified, isolated, grown and transplanted back into the patient. The recipient's immune system does not reject the cells because they are compatible with that person's body. With embryonic stem cells, the potential for immune rejection would require strong immune suppressing drugs to combat rejection of the new cells. This then puts a patient at risk for any microscopic diseases that may be present in the transplanted cells, as well as other diseases that could be present in the hospital environment.

A Question of Cell Youth

Adult stem cells are more likely to have abnormalities from DNA mutations, which can occur due to any number of factors. The 'youth' of embryonic stem cells means that they are less likely to carry mutations and they also regenerate much more quickly than adult stem cells.

Ethics

Since adult stem cells are derived from adult tissues and, of course, with consent from the patient, there is little, if any, ethical dilemma to adult stem cell therapies. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, have triggered enormous debate due to the destruction of an embryo following cell extraction. Also, embryo destruction has essentially become entangled in the abortion debate, creating a mass of controversy between religious leaders, politicians and the public.

The Verdict

Despite the ethical issues, embryonic stem cells show an overwhelmingly higher potential to Treat Disease. However, research should still continue with adult stem cells. It is possible that researchers will discover ways to develop adult stem cells with more success as well as find ways to improve how they function once transplanted into the human body. Recent evidence indicating that adult stem cells may have more potential than was previously thought means that adult stem cells should continue to be researched alongside embryonic stem cells. Ultimately, it's a case where both stem cell sources can be valuable to prolonging and saving human life.

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For those of you that seem to not understand the reason as to why Adult Stem cells have treated more ailments than ESC (Embryonic Stem Cells) is simply due to people that create the ethical issue. In other words, funding is limited therefore learning about ESCs is a substantially slower process. Besides, think about it. A lot of pregnant females don't want kids, and will refuse to have them. Why not have the abortion go to a good cause (potentially saving an actual human's life). I mean after all, you can't make a pregnant female have a baby if she doesn't want it. She could force a miscarriage "Oops, I fell down the stairs". Be realistic people. Before you all start throwing around that argument you need to look at both sides rather than just one.
T.S. - 4-May-14 @ 6:28 AM
Amazes me how many articles continue to laud embryonic stem cells and give little attention to adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells may be preferential for their differentiation when, way down the road, scientists learn how to protect against their volatility. At present, it appears that far more work is being done in the area of adult stem cells. Real successes are being achieved at places like the Stem Cell Institute in Panama and in clinical trials in the U.S. Once the long term safety of these procedures is fully elucidated as research continues to build momentum, it will be amazing to see what adult stem cells can achieve - and likely we will have better understanding in the next decade.
Margaret - 19-Aug-13 @ 10:10 PM
I’m not sure what to make of this article. There is an obvious bias whether the slant is intended or not. The “verdict” concludes that “Despite the ethical issues, embryonic stem cells show an overwhelmingly higher potential to treat disease.” POTENTIAL?! Adult stem cell research ALREADY has produced more than 70 therapeutic benefits for humans while NOT ONE has been derived from ESCR. Moreover, even the most optimistic ES supporters concede that such developments from ESCR are DECADES away. In 1998, James Thomson (Univ. of Wisc.) observed that with regard to ESCR “clinical applications are perhaps as much as a decade away” and in 2007 he revised his prediction to “decades away.” Why? Lack of federal funding? No. Interference from government policies or regulations? No. It is the nature of ES themselves. ESCR has been plagued by grotesque tumors (some malignant, some not) because the downside of the “pluripotency” of ES is that it makes them unstable and dangerous. Moreover, even when ES do not cause teratomas, dangerous immunosuppressants are the norm to avoid rejection of the tissue (which the article above concedes but almost without noting the seriousness of this drawback). On the other side, adult stem cells have been used since 1956 in transplants to regenerate bone marrow in cancer patients; and, in recent years there are documented cases where similar transplants have cured three men of HIV. As for the plasticity or multipotency of adult stem cells (or the “less flexible or versatile” potential as described in this article), conduct a search on the clinicaltrials.gov and you will find nearly 4,000 research efforts involving adult stem cells but relatively next to none using embryos. Even the CIRM (which funds more stem cell research than NIH) -- which was formed specifically for support of ESCR -- has shifted its priorities now to fund more non-embryonic research than ESCR. Adult stem cells have been proven to be stable, but capable of forming every type of tissue in the human body. Indeed, WHOLE ORGANS have been grown using adult stem cells including a human heart and trachea. And that’s the important comparison that matters. Adult stem cells have PROVEN their vitality in producing treatments or cures while embryonic stem cells have been described as “OBSOLETE” in regenerative medicine (at least by former NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy – also a former ESCR enthusiast).
W.T. - 27-Jun-13 @ 5:14 PM
I’m not sure what to make of this article. There is an obvious bias whether the slant is intended or not. The “verdict” concludes that “Despite the ethical issues, embryonic stem cells show an overwhelmingly higher potential to treat disease.” POTENTIAL?! Adult stem cell research ALREADY has produced more than 70 therapeutic benefits for humans while NOT ONE has been derived from ESCR. Moreover, even the most optimistic ES supporters concede that such developments from ESCR are DECADES away. In 1998, James Thomson (Univ. of Wisc.) observed that with regard to ESCR “clinical applications are perhaps as much as a decade away” and in 2007 he revised his prediction to “decades away.” Why? Lack of federal funding? No. Interference from government policies or regulations? No. It is the nature of ES themselves. ESCR has been plagued by grotesque tumors (some malignant, some not) because the downside of the “pluripotency” of ES is that it makes them unstable and dangerous. Moreover, even when ES do not cause teratomas, dangerous immunosuppressants are the norm to avoid rejection of the tissue (which the article above concedes but almost without noting the seriousness of this drawback). On the other side, adult stem cells have been used since 1956 in transplants to regenerate bone marrow in cancer patients; and, in recent years there are documented cases where similar transplants have cured three men of HIV. As for the plasticity or multipotency of adult stem cells (or the “less flexible or versatile” potential as described in this article), conduct a search on the clinicaltrials.gov and you will find nearly 4,000 research efforts involving adult stem cells but relatively next to none using embryos. Even the CIRM (which funds more stem cell research than NIH) -- which was formed specifically for support of ESCR -- has shifted its priorities now to fund more non-embryonic research than ESCR. Adult stem cells have been proven to be stable, but capable of forming every type of tissue in the human body. Indeed, WHOLE ORGANS have been grown using adult stem cells including a human heart and trachea. And that’s the important comparison that matters. Adult stem cells have PROVEN their vitality in producing treatments or cures while embryonic stem cells have been described as “OBSOLETE” in regenerative medicine (at least by former NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy – also a former ESCR enthusiast).
W.T. - 27-Jun-13 @ 4:04 PM
The statement that ESC proliferate and ASC do not is just not true. Especially in context of the assertion that "Stem cell replacement therapies require large numbers of cells and the current difficulty in growing large numbers of adult cells means that their use for therapy at present is limited." This is preposterous in view of the fact that ASC already are being used successfully for therapeutic benefit of humans (thousands of times) and ESC have not.
WT - 27-Jun-13 @ 2:54 AM
what are the similarities between adult and embryonic stem cells???
beauty - 15-Mar-13 @ 5:18 AM
I like this page. To the author and the editor, can I use this as one of my sources in my research paper? I think it can really help in my paper. Thank you very much. More power and God bless.
Avril - 13-Dec-12 @ 9:15 AM
Can I used this page as one of my references in my research paper? It is my pleasure to include this in my bibliography because I think this can really help my research. Thank you very much. More power and God bless.
April - 13-Dec-12 @ 9:05 AM
stem cells my ASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS !
your mother - 19-Oct-12 @ 4:37 PM
YOU UGLY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PAN - 19-Oct-12 @ 4:36 PM
At present, however, it would appear that embryonic stem cells still have the advantage in their ability to differentiate more readily than adult stem cells. This is a quote from your article, isn't it true that adult stem cells have treated far more ailments/degenerative disorders in comparison to embryonic stem cells.
StemCellsUniverse - 15-Dec-11 @ 5:28 AM
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