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Blind and deaf dog who has been given a special treat By By Martin Wright Dec 11, 2014 in Science A dog who became deaf and blind while in her teenage years is the centre of a debate about the use of stem cells. The blind and deaf dog who has been given a special treat. Credit: Chris Gorman / Thinkstock A dog who became deaf and blind while in her teenage years is the centre of a debate about the use of stem cells. The blind and deaf dog who has been given a special treat. Credit: Chris Gorman / Thinkstock Chris Gorman, a vet, was the first to treat the dog. She decided to use stem cells taken from the dog's own umbilical cord, which are then put back into her own bloodstream to d healing. Her treatment is at a cutting edge of science, but her case is not isolated. In fact, many similar cases are being discussed in the media at the moment, which brings the potential of stem cells in the treatment of blindness and deafness into a new light. So what are stem cells, where do they come from and do they work? A stem cell can be considered a special type of cell which can become different types of cell in the body. Stem cells can be created in laboratories from a variety of human embryos, or foetuses and foetuses, as well as from embryos of other mammals. The cells can then be grown and changed by chemical means to become any kind of cell in the body. The advantage of this is that unlike the body's own cells, these can be modified to become any type of cell in the body. For example, a laboratory might create skin cells that are like the skin of a leopard. These cells could then be injected into a leopard's body to replace the real skin. Other stem cells could be injected into the body to help heal broken bones. Stem cells are often referred to as "self-healing cells" because if a stem cell is injected into the body, it will only replace the damaged tissue. Stem cells are taken from the umbilical cord of a foetus at the time of birth, the placenta and foetal membranes are discarded and the cells are extracted from the umbilical cord. These cells can be grown in the laboratory, and a small number of them are transplanted back into the blood stream of a patient. Stem cells can also be taken from the bone marrow, which is the source of blood forming cells such as red and white blood cells. The bone marrow can also be transplanted into the bloodstream. Stem cells are most widely used in the treatment of blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma. A few years ago, a stem cell treatment was developed to reverse paralysis in a woman called Amy Dunigan, who has spinal muscular atrophy. The stem cell treatment is still being tested, but it is believed to be at an advanced stage of development. However, the idea of using stem cells to treat human blindness and deafness has gned traction. For these conditions, the cells being used are taken from the umbilical cords of unborn babies, foetuses and foetuses. The idea being that these are the cells that are capable of becoming the nerve cells in the brn which sense sight and hearing. These cells could be put into the brn of a child who is born blind or deaf, and so the child would be able to see and hear. Stem cell therapy is not currently being used in humans, but some studies have been carried out to assess the benefits of this form of treatment for a variety of different conditions. These stem cell treatments are controversial. Many experts are cautious about the safety of the procedure. But it has also rsed ethical and moral concerns. A report by the US Congress warned that "ethical and moral concerns about the application of this new technology are increasing". Stem cell therapy to treat blindness is also the subject of a new book, Stem Cells to Help Blind Patients, which is being launched in the US at the end of the week by the International Society for Stem Cell Research. One of the major concerns about this is that because the cells being used are taken from a foetus, there is the risk that the embryo's own genetic material may end up being put back into the embryo. This is similar to the problem of creating human-animal hybrids by taking stem cells from an animal's embryo and putting them into the human embryo. A UK expert on stem cells says: "There is no way to know that these cells will not put back their own DNA to the human embryo, but we are not currently in a position to find out what happens, or why it may happen, so we have to assume it. "A major concern is that these cells are taken from the developing foetus. They may contn the genetic mutations that could lead to birth defects, so they need to be removed. If that is done, the next question is whether the embryo can then be grown. "What if the embryo is then used to create another embryo that has stem cells taken from it? We do not know what happens if you do that, so that is a concern. "If the embryo is then discarded, this means that it is no longer able to develop into a normal foetus. It would seem that if you used the embryo in that way, that would be the same as the destruction of the embryo, which would contravene the law." In Britn, a law has been introduced which says that embryos which have been created for fertility treatment are not allowed to be frozen. If they are frozen, or if they are discarded, this law says they can not be used for research or any other purpose, including for research into stem cell therapy. Stem cells are also being used in the development of treatments for a wide range of other conditions. In the US, stem cell research is being done on people who have haemophilia, a rare genetic condition which causes blood to clot too quickly and can be fatal. Stem cells taken from the bone marrow are being transplanted into the bloodstream of people with haemophilia. They are then supposed to produce blood cells which will stop the clotting. In America, a drug called "Luxturna" is being used to treat a rare form of