Saturday, July 25, 2009

More on Stem Cells

So, what happened to what I had been saying about stem cells and all that? It's like my life is too encumbered to continue telling about it, but it isn't. I am just my distracted, lazy self. I go every which way, here and there and all over without any specific focus. Without any commitment to finishing what I start. Anyway, I was going to learn a bit more about stem cells and what's going on there by writing a little bit about it. I guess I still can. A lot of money is being spent on it. I'm sure it's nothing like what they --- the government and nonprofit organizations and the like --- spend on weapons and the military, but nonetheless there is a lot of money out there for it because it pertains to healthcare and man's dream to live forever. And there are more and more people approaching old age but still looking for eternal life. Not only are they looking for eternal life, but they don't want to die to get there.

In any event, in 2009 more will be spent relative to the subject than in years past. Claudia Castillo benefited in 2008 from advancements in stem cell science. She had a problem with her windpipe. She needed it fixed. Her story goes something like this: in 2004 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. As can be imagined, it caused her a lot of problems. She describes how at night she had to keep coughing and coughing and it was always getting worse and worse. Not too good on getting sleep. She felt incapacitated and had to be quarantined. Her bronchial tubes narrowed and she had difficulty breathing. Doctors had a difficult time fixing it because they couldn't just remove one section of her bronchus and leave the other sections unconnected. Therefore, they decided to do a transplantation of a trachea from somebody else into her bronchus. Yikes!

She describes her fear going into the operation, saying when you're the first person ever to have a procedure no one knows what will happen. She wondered if she would even survive. Anyway, they removed the trachea from the donor and put it in her after installing her, I assume, bronchial stem cells on the donated trachea. It succeeded, and she feels considerably better. She says how she can now walk upstairs without having to stop every two steps.

One of the big areas where stem cells are seen as important is the spinal cord. Injuries and disease can cause paralysis by wiping out nerves or axons in the spinal cord. This wipes out a person's ability to signal the brain from the extremities. It causes the protective insulation around the axons to erode. The insulation is called myelin. Scientists are trying to inject myelin-precursor cells from embryonic stem cells into patients with new spinal injuries. They hope these new cells create myelin and restore the normal nerve impulses along the axons.

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