The Patient’s View: Stem Cell Research- A field of research in UK?

Have you ever had the feeling of absolute hopelessness? That empty, buzzing feeling in your head when someone tells you that you only have months to live?

Religious activists might argue that embryos have intrinsic value from the moment of birth and thus regard using the embryo to derive stem cells as tantamount to murdering a baby. However, have you ever taken into account the lives that you could potentially save from Stem Cell research? A potential application of stem cells is to form cells and tissues for medical treatments but currently it is donated organs and tissues that are substituted for damaged and dysfunctional ones.

Sadly, the demand for organ transplant is way higher than the supply. Transplant waiting lists are unexhaustive and more than 4,573 U.S. patients died in 2008 alone awaiting a kidney transplant due to a donor shortage. It’s common for transplant recipients to get organs that are an imperfect match. But holding on to such an organ is difficult and exacts a serious toll.

To prevent the immune system from going for an all-out attack on tissue it sees as a threat, patients must follow an arduous drug regimen for the rest of their lives. Without the medications, a transplanted kidney that’s an incomplete match is likely to be rejected, and the patient faces the prospect of dialysis, a repeat transplant or death. The anti-rejection drugs — typically 15 to 20 pills a day — make patients susceptible to infection, diabetes, hypertension and cancers and are so toxic, they often overwhelm transplanted kidneys. They have typically cost as much as $20,000 a year, and remain a far cry from affordable despite the recent availability of generic versions.

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And after all that hassle, many patients reject their transplanted organs anyway.

But all these could change in the future with future developments in the field of Stem Cell research. It could potentially change the lives of millions of people that would otherwise never have a chance to get well again. Stem cells can now benefit victims of Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, Arthiritis and also those of Cardiovascular Diseases. However now, with further research and testing ,even patients receiving an organ that’s less than a perfect match can be protected against rejection by a second transplant — this time of the organ donor’s imperfectly matched stem cells. More can and should be done to help these people.

Done by: Nicole Lim (21) 306

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