Through their lens: On sports and stem cells

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

In addition to carrying out a stem cell research project, the students were expected to carry out a secondary project relating their work to other areas of study.

Emerson Pizzinat did a stem cell research internship this summer in the laboratory of Thomas Weimbs at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He submitted this photo to our #CIRMStemCellLab Instagram feed.

Professional athletes are some of the most revered figures in our society today. While this probably should not be the case people take a fascination in what their favorite player is doing, wearing, and saying. Some people even develop an obsession over a certain player. For the players this is good as the larger their fan base the more jerseys and other memorabilia are sold. A players performance what they look like, where they play, are a few examples of what can add or detract from their fame and ultimately their salary. For example if a baseball player lives in a big city like New York and hits a lot of home runs then this player will have a larger fan base and most likely have a large salary. However what happens when this player gets hurt? Will he maintain his salary and fame or will it shrink?

In order to make sure he doesn’t lose these the player needs to get back as quickly as possible. How does he do this? Stem cells. If the cause for the absence of play is an injury to his body then this could be a viable option in the future. This would be a new frontier in the sports medicine world. Stem cells rejuvenating and repairing qualities would make it a good option to decrease the time spent recovering from injuries. As stem cells have the potential to turn into a variety of specialized cells they could be used to help repair a torn ACL or a pulled muscle. While at the moment this kind of treatment would be expensive with more research prices should drop as better ways for harvesting stem cells develop.

However like most good intentioned ideas this could be used by people who have different aims. Doping has become a major problem in the sporting world today with the most evident cases being in cycling and baseball. So who’s to say that “stem cell doping” won’t become a thing. If it increases a player’s performance then someone will not be able to resist the urge. This has been shown in numerous cases and while it benefits the athlete in the short term there are almost always negative consequences in the end.

Emerson Pizzinat

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