Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is regenerative medicine that uses basic cells capable of differentiating into almost any type of cell in the body (stem cells) to help treat diseases and conditions.
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The different forms that a stem cell can take.
The different forms that a stem cell can take.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are cells that have the ability to self-renew for long periods of time and differentiate into multiple cell types. There are two broad types of stem cells, namely:
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) - These are pluripotent cells, meaning they can give rise to all kinds of cells in our body. In the case of human embryonic stem cells, these cells are derived from the inner mass of the blastocyst (a cell structure in early embryonic development).
Non-embryonic or adult stem cells (ASCs) - Most adult stem cells are multipotent, meaning they can divide and develop into cell types present within one specific organ or tissue.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) - These are adult stem cells found in the bone marrow, umbilical cord and fat tissue. These stem cells have the ability to differentiate into cartilage, muscle, fat and bone cells.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - Discovered in 2006, these are previous adult stem cells that have been gene-edited and designed in the lab to behave like embryonic stem cells. iPSCs have pluripotent abilities, but are not exactly the same as embryonic.
Why Are Stem Cells Important?
In a growing embryo, stem cells are of essence because they give rise to all other types of cells which make up different tissues and organs and ultimately the human body. As adults, ASCs present in our bone marrow and skin, self-renew to develop replacement cells after the old ones have been destroyed due to disease, trauma or normal wear and tear.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
The first successful use for stem cell therapy was carried out in 1968 by a team of doctors who performed a bone marrow transplant to treat immunodeficiency in two siblings. The ASCs present in the bone marrow are known as hematopoietic stem cells, which have the ability to specialize into red and white blood cells. These cells make up an integral part of our immune system. Over the years other sources of these multipotent cells were found in the placenta, umbilical cord blood and even the human skin.
Is SCT a Miracle Cure?
Stem cell research has come a long way, but most research is limited to animal models, or small human trials. Results from large, randomized, controlled trials are still missing, and having the therapy publicly available and approved by the country’s drug administration systems (such as the FDA) is far in the future.
As of now, the FDA only approves the use of stem cells from bone marrow or cord blood to treat hematologic diseases including leukemia. Unregulated, illegal stem cell therapies could result in undesirable side effects such as tumorigenesis, reaction at the site of administration, displacement of stem cells from the intended site or even death. Many clinical trials are ongoing all across the world, although no clear clinical benefits have been noted.
The future of stem cells holds great promise, but it requires much more robust research and trial. Lastly, please be wary of any unregulated transplants or bogus results. They are not supported by the current understanding of the field.
Where Are Stem Cells Being Applied?
Before we delve into the areas of application of stem cells, it is important to mention that the field of regenerative medicine is constantly developing, and there are new discoveries being made everyday, as well as the old ones being disproved. The information below is written to give you a general understanding of the current applications of stem cell therapy.
One of the largest areas of research and potential of stem cells is Orthopaedics. More specifically osteoarthritis. Though there is plenty of research, recruiting and trials, the therapy may not become standardized for many years. This is because there are still many concerns with regards to safety of the treatment, not to mention its efficacy and affordability. The pharmacological and surgical options available, though still risky have a higher degree of credibility. Please make sure to do all your research, know the facts and ask questions to anyone making dubious claims about stem cells treatment for orthopaedics.
Recently researchers have also discovered that the human heart holds some stem cells, and these are now being studied with the hope of repairing or replacing tissue that has been damaged by heart failure. Stem cells transplanted into injured heart tissue have been shown to improve cardiac function or possibly form new capillaries. iPSCs can be engineered to become heart tissue, which is useful for understanding cardiac diseases and for studying the effects and side effects of drugs. These are preliminary results at best, and a lot more research is needed before safe and efficient treatments are developed.
PRP vs Stem Cell Therapy
Quite often, there is confusion surrounding whether PRP treatment comes under the umbrella of stem cell therapy. PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma treatment where a high concentration of your own platelets, which are found in your blood and bone marrow are injected into your scalp. Platelets are already differentiated adult cells and do have the capacity to specialize into other kinds of cells. Stem cell therapy, as the name states uses stem cells which have the ability to differentiate into different cells of the body.
In summary, the field of regenerative medicine has made leaps and bounds of progress since its inception. There have been significant developments in our understanding of the biology of stem cells, their mechanisms and in their potential for varied applications.
Stem cell therapy has a lot of promise, but a safe implementation and more robust evidence will be vital to developing reliable clinical technology
What Would I Need?
For a full consultation or consideration, a full medical history and doctor's report is necessary for us in order to determine if stem cell therapy is the right option for your case. As mentioned earlier, only very few illnesses have been legally and safely treated with stem cells. If you are unsure about your treatment options, please get in touch with us. A specialist will assess all your documents thoroughly, before determining your suitability for any treatments. Without a full medical history, the specialist cannot make an informed decision on whether the patient is eligible.