The personal injury attorneys at our San Diego firm handle cases where clients suffer catastrophic spinal cord injuries. There are many people who currently live a paralyzed life.
For example, car accidents cause thousands of paralysis injuries every year. Serious paralysis injuries (i.e. paraplegia & quadriplegia) can lead to permanent damage and change a person’s life forever. Treatment for spinal cord injuries is somewhat limited, and many people that are paralyzed never regain the use of their legs or limbs ever again — severely diminishing their quality of life.
One possible future medical treatment that has given hope to paraplegics and quadriplegics is stem cell treatment.
In a new four-part series this week, we will discuss the medical advances in stem cell research that might be able to change things for the better for people with these permanent disabilities. Today, we will explain what a stem cell is and how it develops.
In a three- to five-day-old human embryo, called a blastocyst, the inner cells create the entire human body, including specialized cell types and organs like the heart, lungs and skin. Because of their unique regenerating abilities, stem cells can be used to treat a variety of diseases (diabetes and heart disease) and injuries (paralysis and brain injuries) through research known as regenerative medicine.
Though stem cells do not have a clear definition, all stem cells have three general properties:
- Stem cells are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods of time unlike muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells that cannot copy themselves enough times to heal some catastrophic injuries.
- Stem cells do not have any tissue-specific structures that allow it to perform specialized functions. For example, stem cells cannot work with other cells to pump blood like a heart muscle cell, but heart muscle cells can be created from unspecialized stem cells.
- Stem cells can be engineered to become specialized cells. In the process of differentiation (when a new cell becomes a specialized cell), stem cells can go through several stages, and signals inside the cells determine what type of cell is formed. Scientists are just now learning about those signals.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains in greater detail the complete properties of stem cells and possible treatments for people with permanent paralysis.
Stem cell research is not without controversy, as human embryos are often needed to harvest stem cells — a practice that has some concerned about killing unborn children. As San Diego personal injury lawyers, we hope that new medical treatments will at least be considered if it helps our personal injury clients get on with a better quality of life, provided it does not necessarily lead to the wrongful death of unborn children.
Thankfully, there are two different types of stem cells, and in part two of our Stem Cell Research Series we will talk about how unborn babies need not be killed to harvest stem cells.
If you or a loved one have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, then we urge you to contact our bilingual offices as soon as possible at 1-800-655-6585 or please click here for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Diego. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing until we recover money on your behalf.