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Stem cell research has helped families of Holyoke PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chandler Gerk, Holyoke 10th-grader   

Research for stem cells is still underway, but what most people know is what the cells do. When stem cells enter the body, their purpose is to replace damaged as well as diseased cells within the body, whether the cells are needed in the spinal cord, heart, lungs, kidneys or anywhere, really.

According to “Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research,” stem cells come from three sources: adult cells, umbilical cord cells and embryonic cells.

Adult cells are taken from bone marrow or the peripheral system. The peripheral system works with nerve fibers that send sensory information to the central nervous system and motor fibers that project to skeletal muscles.

Bone marrow is the second rich source, but damage can be caused to the bone during extraction.

Adult cells from the peripheral system are also plentiful and extraction will not cause damage. Unfortunately, this process takes longer, and in most cases the cells are needed as soon as possible.

Umbilical cord cells are the best source of stem cells. Of course, at the birth of a child, it must be planned to keep the umbilical cord stored in a cryogenic cell bank. Otherwise, this method cannot be used. If this process was planned, not only can cord cells be used for the child, but the mother and father can also use the cells without the immune system rejecting the cells.

Using embryonic cells is when people begin to disagree with the use of stem cells. For some people, it’s just the lack of knowledge around the subject, such as not knowing that there are other options of stem cells other than embryonic cells. Most everyone prefers not to touch an embryo to get stem cells.

There are two families from Holyoke who have made a strenuous journey to Düsseldorf, Germany. Gary, Andrea and Blye McCallum as well as Brad, Chris and Katelyn Gerk all traveled to Düsseldorf to a facility known as XCell-Center for stem cell treatment.

Both received bone marrow, but on different dates; Blye left Feb. 1 and Katelyn left March 20. Blye has already begun to see results. Katelyn is still waiting patiently to see results from the procedure.

Whether or not one agrees with stem cell research, it is impossible not to be happy that such research could be offered to these two families.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Newspaper In Education series promoted by The Holyoke Enterprise in partnership with Holyoke schools. Finalists were selected by Enterprise staff Darci Tomky and Chris Lee.