Source: Image and Video Created by Amanda Soderlind
Welcome to this lesson on stem cells and nervous system disorders. Today, we will be talking about the function of stem cells in treating nervous system disorders. So many nervous system disorders involve the cells of the nervous system either dying or becoming damaged. And as these cells die or become damaged, it can cause various different types of nervous system disorders.
So stem cell research offers hope to treating these types of disorders. So in order to understand how stem cell research works, we have to understand what a stem cell is. So a stem cell is an differentiated cell found in an undeveloped embryo or in the adult brain. And in addition to this, stem cells can be found in various other tissues throughout the body as well. So it's not just limited to embryos or the brain.
But when I talk about an undifferentiated cell, what I'm talking about is a cell that hasn't specialized yet. So they haven't specialized into a specific type of cell. And so because of this, they're important in scientific research because scientists can manipulate these types of cells and produce a certain type of cell that they need to possibly treat a disease. So these undifferentiated cells are really important and really valuable.
So new research, as of fairly recently, has shown that neural stem cells in the brain can actually generate new neurons under certain circumstances. So previously, in the past, it was thought that stem cells could only be obtained from an embryo. And there was a lot of ethical debate with this because to obtain these stem cells from an embryo involved usually killing the embryo. So there was a lot of debate whether it was worth it to obtain these stem cells from an embryo or not. But now research is showing that these stem cells can actually be obtained throughout the brain or other body tissues.
So these cells could be used to repair damaged portions of the nervous system caused by damage or disease. So we can use these undifferentiated cells, manipulate them and specialize them in a specific way, and then use them to repair damaged portions of the nervous system that are caused by diseases. So it could be useful with disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other forms of paralysis among various other types of nervous system disorders. So it can be extremely beneficial.
So I'm going to kind of explain to you how the process of this works. It's actually an extremely complex process. But this is just kind of a super-oversimplified, nutshell version of how this process can be used. So first, a scientist would start with differentiated neural cells in a lab dish, and then would be able to manipulate them and grow them into the desired differentiated cell. And then that cell would be implanted into the patient to try to repair the damaged portion or whatever portion of the cells need repairing, depending on the disorder that they have.
Another type of research that's happening and a way that they're doing this is that they're trying to find ways to help the body fire up their own stem cells to help repair for damage. So if they can find a way to get the body to fire up those stem cells on their own, then they wouldn't need to implant stem cells for this type of treatment. The body would just be able to kind of do it on its own. So this lesson has been an overview on stem cells and nervous system disorders.
A class of cells that are referred to as undifferentiated (unspecialized); these cells are found in embryos and adults and have the potential to form into specialized cells if they are exposed to the right environment.
Research that is geared toward using stem cells to cure currently incurable diseases.