Stem cells are cells that are able to develop in different types of cells found in the body. They’re unspecialized cells that have not any specific tasks. However, they have the potential to divide and renew themselves as new stem cells or become other types of cells. They help renovate certain tissues in the body by dividing and replacing damaged tissues.
Stem cell therapy is a new branch of medicine promising great results for patients with a wide range of diseases from MS (Multiple Sclerosis) or Alzheimer to diabetes or spinal cord injury.
In the same time, scientists are willing to point out that stem cell treatment today is still a largely experimental field with many researches in the benefits and risks of them conducted. With some types of stem cells proving to be a solution to various medical issues and others still not proven to do any good to the human body. Stem cell research is still ongoing, and for some of its results, we can wait for years to come.
Some clinics offer specific treatment options for stem cell therapy, such as stem cell therapy for cancer. Who should we believe? Where can we make a reliable stem cell transplant? Does the stem cell really work? In this article, we will try to shed some light on the topic of stem cell therapy and try to inform about its promises and effectiveness.
What Is a Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells are cells which did not become specified types of body cells. However, it doesn’t mean that all types of stem cells can be used in stem cell treatment. In order for cells to fall under the definition of “stem cells,” they should display two key characteristics. First, stem cells must have the ability of unlimited self-renewal as exactly the same as the originating cell. Secondly, they must be able to differentiate.
Stem cells therapy originated as a new therapeutic and regenerative approach, with wide application potential. It is based on the premise that stem cells injected into a particular organ or place in the body may help regenerate it or even fight the diseases with which patients struggle. Since they help in developing healthy body cells, the application of stem cells should inspire the process of reconstruction.
Where Do Stem Cells Come From?
As for where do stem cells come from, there are many sources. There are two major categories of stem cells: pluripotent (embryonic) stem cells which can become any cell in the adult body, and multipotent (adult) stem cells which are restricted to becoming a more limited population of cells.
Pluripotent stem cells are produced in the laboratory from blastocyst cells created in the in vitro process. Mesenchymal stem cells are sourced from the stroma, the tissue filling the space between organs in our bodies. Hematopoietic stem cells are found in the patient’s own blood and bone marrow.
How Exactly Does It Work?
With the right stimulation and under a proper condition, many stem cells can take on the role of any type of cell; thus they can regenerate damaged tissue. This lifesaving potential can repair wounds and tissue damage after an illness or injury. Scientists now see many possible uses for stem cells, and it is very promising.
However, technically, what is a stem cell transplant? It usually is an injection in proper amounts of stem cells into the bloodstream or ailing organ. Then, patients are asked to wait for a couple of days or weeks for the results of stem cell treatment.
Types of Stem Cell Treatment
Currently, there is a limited number of stem cell treatments proven to work in clinical trials. These include:
• Stem cell treatment for cancer of the blood (leukemia) – blood-forming bone marrow stem cells (a variety of hematopoietic stem cells acquired from one’s bone marrow) are used in this type of stem cell therapy to restore the bone marrow and to fight leukemia with very good results.
• Stem cell therapy for eye and skin problems – stem cell injections were tested in a variety of eye problems including loss of vision and skin problems include severe loss of the skin and brought very good results.
Apart from these stem cell treatments, there are other types of stem cell transplants tested around the world. As an example, stem cell knee injections are believed to help in the regeneration of knee tissues damaged by injuries. Researchers also believe that stem cell therapy for knee works effectively by developing into main cartilage cells and preventing the inflammation that can worsen arthritis. An average cost for stem cell therapy treatment for knees is $3,000 to $5,000 per knee in the US, and it largely depends on geographical location.
Additionally, stem cell injections, especially of pluripotent stem cells, are suggested to help in organ regeneration in treatments such as stem cell treatment for liver, and lungs. Researchers now know that stem cells can develop as new cardiomyocytes and vascular endothelial cells, under highly specific growth conditions in the laboratory culture environment to restoring cardiac (heart) function.
Finally, stem cell therapy may be useful in some cosmetic procedures such as stem cell therapy for hair loss.
Which Stem Cell Therapy Will Be Good for Me?
While choosing a proper stem cell therapy and clinic, you should pay attention to a couple of factors. First of all, check where do stem cells come from. For blood-related diseases, they can be hematopoietic stem cells. However, for other health issues, you may need pluripotent stem cells. Secondly, check if the clinic offering you a stem cell therapy is legal and has certificates proving its high quality. In 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which has the authority to regulate stem cell products in the United States warned patients who are seeking cures, against illegal and potentially dangerous stem cell treatments. The only FDA-approved stem cell-based products for use in the United States consist of blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic progenitor cells) derived from cord blood. These products are only approved for limited use in patients with disorders which affect the body system that is involved in the production of blood.
Remember that an application of stem cells is not a wonderful medicine for everything. If you have any doubts, just ask a specialist in the field.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.