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STEM CELLS

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After reading the chapters on DNA structure and inheritance in your lecture course textbook, most of you will probably agree with me that DNA expression and regulation is actually a quite complex topic. 🙂

Yes, the “Central Molecular Dogma” of how DNA is expressed seems relatively simple from what you read in the textbook: DNA is transcribed into RNA, and RNA is then translated into protein.

But the complicated part is what do we do with this basic knowledge of this process. How do we apply it to understanding and treating diseases like cancers? How do we change expression of cells to cure a patient’s disease without causing other cellular problems? How can we test mechanisms and toxicity of new drugs for these diseases ethically without taking advantage of our “poorer” or “sicker” populations? And what are the advantages and disadvantages/consequences of our various DNA/RNA manipulation experiments at the cellular and tissue levels?

These are some of the questions which we will consider during the rest of our Coffee/Tea Time discussions in this course. And we will continue do so in the context of big current research areas, which deal with DNA/RNA manipulations.

During our previous Coffee/Tea Time discussion, we examined how the genotype and the phenotype of an individual may be changed due to NATURALLY occurring chimerism. By the end of this course, I would like to change gears and discuss how we can “MANUALLY” engineer a shift in expression of genotypes and resulting phenotypes – in both, ourselves and in other organisms – through targeting with specific drugs. However, before we can do this, we need to cover the basics of cell differentiation in more detail. These will help you better answer some of the following questions: what exactly is cancer, why it is difficult to “permanently cure” it, and what type of drugs we need to design to address these treatment difficulties.

So, during this specific Coffee/Tea Time Discussion, let’s first look more closely at the topic of stem cells.

Please go to this website and read some general facts about stem cells:

http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/

Make sure to click around on the different links on this website to learn as much information about stem cells as you can.

You may also want to look at the section on stem cells in Chaper 20 of your lecture textbook, but this is not required since most of this information is covered at the above website.

Then, please post a post under this discussion board in which you either partially or fully answers one or more of the questions below.

Your general personal opinion on this topic is also welcomed, but I would primarily like us to concentrate on discussing the biological details of this issue.

Also, let’s make sure that everyone’s beliefs are respected. Please be professional as you discuss this topic with your fellow classmates.

Questions:

1. What are stem cells? How can they be used in disease treatment?

2. What are the different types of stem cells? How are the different stem cells obtained?

3. Is the use of some stem cells more controversial than the use of other types? Why? Is there a technique (s) now used that can reduce the controversy over using some types of stem cells – explain the technique (s) if you can?

4. Are some stem cells already being used in treatment, and many in the general public just do not realize that these treatments incorporate stem cells? Give an example.

5. What is the advantage of using patient-derived stem cells as part of treatment versus non-patient (donor) derived stem cells? What is the disadvantage?

6. What is the current U.S. federal policy on stem cell use? How does this differ from stem cell policies of other countries?

Here is a website to get you started on this: http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy

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