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Stem Cell Therapy

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy is also called regenerative medicine. This is a type of intervention strategy, in which stem cells or its derivatives are injected into/for replacement of diseased or dysfunctional cells in order to treat disease or injury. The technique is similar to organ transplant only in this therapy cells are used instead of organs.

Why does stem cell therapy work?

This therapy works because of two inherent qualities of stem cells. The ability of self renewal and potency (ability to subsequently divide into cells with variable degrees of differentiation capacity) provide them with unlimited potential of treatment.

How does stem cell therapy work?

These stem cells are grown in lab by scientists. Researchers grow these cells with specific protocols or even inject genes in these cells to develop them into specialized functional cells. Thus these stem cells are manipulated to make them function as specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. For example for a person with a heart disease can be injected with specially treated stem cells to replace the damaged heart tissue.

Once the stem cells are transplanted, repair and recovery can then be exacted via three primary mechanisms:

  • In the damaged region formation and/or recruitment of new blood cells
  • Injected cell death prevention
  • Inflammation suppression

Platelet-rich plasma can be used in conjunction with stem cell transplantation, to enrich blood supply to the damaged areas, and consequently promote tissue regeneration.

What stem cell therapies are available?

There is a host of available stem cell therapies, but most are at experimental stages. Some of the stem cell transplants already been performed include bone marrow transplantation. Other potential treatments include cancer, Type 1 diabetes mellitus, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Celiac Disease, cardiac failure, muscle damage and neurological disorders, and many others.

There are two types of stem cell known - Adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells have been tried and tested in many applications, including a number of degenerative diseases, such as heart failure. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood (Embryonic stem cells) have been successfully used in clinical trials to treat cancer and blood-related diseases. Stem cell therapeutics has come a long way. Stem cell therapy is all about understanding the stem cell behavior upon transplantation as well as the mechanisms of stem cell interaction with the diseased/injured microenvironment.

What are the chances of a successful stem cell therapy?

The clinical success of any therapy is highly dependent on the development of the certain procedures. (1) It is imperative that the transplanted cells should proliferate and differentiate in a site-specific manner. (2) To prevent transplant rejection, it is important that the cells should survive in the recipient. (3) Transplanted cells should integrate within the targeted tissue for repair, replacement and re-bonding with original tissue. (4) The integration of transplanted cells into the host circuitry ensures restoring of function. (5) Significance of stem cell microenvironments in the success of a therapy cannot be ruled out as the microenviroment provides growth factors to the stem cell transplant. This microenvironment also guides apposite differentiation of transplanted cell populations and direct transplanted cells to sites of trauma or disease through chemical signals.

Sources of stem cells for regenerative therapy

Autologous (patient-derived) stem cells are generally used in regenerative therapy. They are primarily derived from the patient's bone marrow or from adipose tissue. The effectiveness of the treatment is dependent on the number of stem cells transplanted into damaged tissue, and as such, stem cells derived from bone marrow aspirates, for instance, are cultured in specialized laboratories for expansion to millions of cells. It is considered that cells derived from bone-marrow are better for bone, cartilage, ligament, and tendon repair. But the adipose-derived stem cells are preferred source for autologous transplantation because of their less extensive collection techniques and the multi-cellular microenvironment already present.

Does stem cell therapy holds any promise?

Yes, as per researchers there is continuous refinement and improvement in the Stem cell transplants using adult stem cells. Research on embryonic stem cells has shown potential too. It is believed that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease.

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