Stem Cells -- Sorting Through the Hype and Hope

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MayoClinic.com offers facts on stem cells.

Stem cells -- do they represent medical miracles or a breach of medical ethics? A new MayoClinic.com article explains the role of stem cells, why there is significant interest in using them for research and why their use generates controversy.

Stem cells are considered the body's master cells, from which all other cells develop. Because of this unique role, researchers hope that manipulating stem cells will result in new treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, cancer, birth defects and other serious medical conditions.

The controversy about their use comes from one of the sources of stem cells used for research: human embryos. Extracting embryonic stem cells destroys the embryos.

The article includes frequently asked questions -- and answers -- about:

  • The four sources of stem cells
  • Why embryonic stem cell research is controversial
  • Advantages and limitations of the different stem cell types
  • How stem cell therapy works
  • The current limitations of federal funding in embryonic stem cell research
  • Why researchers want to expand stem cell research

Using stem cells in health care is not a new idea. Stem cell transplants, also known as bone marrow transplants, have been used to treat leukemia and other conditions since the 1960s. These adult stem cells come from the patient's or a donor's bone marrow.

For more information about stem cells, visit http://www.MayoClinic.com.

About MayoClinic.com

Launched in 1995 and now visited by more than 9 million users a month, this award-winning consumer Web site offers health information, self-improvement, and disease management tools to empower people to manage their health. Produced by a team of Web professionals and medical experts, MayoClinic.com gives users access to the experience and knowledge of the more than 2,000 physicians and scientists of Mayo Clinic. MayoClinic.com offers users intuitive, easy access tools such as "Symptom Checker" and "First-Aid Guide" for fast answers about health conditions ranging from common to complex; as well as more in-depth sections on more than 25 common diseases and conditions and a wealth of healthy living articles, videos, animations and features such as "Ask a Specialist" and "Drug Watch." Users can sign up for a free weekly e-newsletter called "Housecall" which provides the latest health information from Mayo Clinic. For more information, visit http://www.mayoclinic.com.

To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to http://www.mayoclinic.org/news. MayoClinic.com is available as a resource for your health stories.

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Ginger Plumbo
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