Stem cell therapy is a branch of science that is slowly but steadily emerging and bringing us one step closer to regenerative medicine
However, there are many misconceptions and apprehensions in people’s minds about this therapy. Here are some of the lesser-known facts about stem cell therapy -
Stem cells are primitive cells that can develop into a variety of specific cell types. Additionally, in many tissues, they serve as an internal repair system by dividing continually to replenish other cells. When stem cells divide, each new cell has the potential either to stay a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialised function, such as a muscle cell, red blood cell or brain cell.Stem cell therapy has tremendous prospects to treat people with a range of diseases, injuries and other health conditions. Their potential is evident in the use of blood stem cells to treat diseases of the blood, a therapy that has saved the lives of thousands of children with leukaemia. They have also been used for tissue grafts to treat diseases or injury of the bone, skin and surface of the eye. Important clinical trials involving stem cells are underway for many other conditions and researchers continue to explore new avenues to use them. These are some of the benefits and limitations of stem cell therapy -
1. Few stem cell treatments have been proven and are effective
Areas, where stem cell is largely used, is still limited. The best-defined and most extensively used stem cell treatment is hematopoietic (or blood) stem cell transplantation. For example, bone marrow transplantation to treat certain blood and immune system disorders or to rebuild the blood system after treatment for some kinds of cancer. Some bone, skin and corneal (eye) injuries and diseases are treated by grafting or implanting tissues, and the healing process relies on stem cells within this implanted tissue. These procedures are widely accepted as safe and effective by the medical community.
2. Different type of stem cells serve a different purpose in the body
Without manipulation in the lab, tissue-specific stem cells can only generate the other cell types found in the tissues where they live. For example, the blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells found in bone marrow regenerate the cells in the blood, while neural stem cells in the brain make brain cells. A hematopoietic stem cell will not spontaneously make a brain cell and vice versa. Thus, it is unlikely that a single cell type is used to treat a multitude of unrelated diseases involving different tissues or organs.
3. Cells from your own body are not inevitably safe when used in treatments.
Theory, your immune system would not attack your cells if they are used in a transplant. The use of a patient’s cells is known as an autologous transplant. However, the processes by which the cells are acquired, grown and then reintroduced into the body is an extremely crucial factor.
4. The science behind the disease should match the science behind the treatment.
The more you know about the causes and effects of the disease, the better prepared you are to identify the best treatment options. For instance, receiving blood-forming stem cells for a diabetic patient will not work because the problem is in the pancreas and not in the blood itself. Without significant and careful manipulation in the lab, tissue-specific stem cells do not generate cell types found outside of their home tissues.
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