Stem Cell Therapy
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells are “blank slate” cells that can become any cell to fill the body’s needs, using the cells nearby as a template.
The body is composed of blood cells, skin cells, brain cells, and other cells to compose the rest of the body. These cells throughout our bodies are constantly dying and being replaced. For this reason, the body has a large supply of stem cells to replace nearby cells when they are needed.
Stem cells are harvested easily because they are present in all bodies. They are also very prevalent in the embryos and umbilical cords of newborn babies, as their bodies are so early in the development process. These are the two most common ways to find and utilize stem cells for stem cell therapy.
Most commonly, stem cells are sourced from the patient’s own body and consist of two types. Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are found in the connective tissue near the area that requires therapy. MSCs are used to regenerate specific areas of the body, as they are already present in the areas they are needed. These cells grow near the damaged site, making it easier for them to reach the targeted area of the body.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (also known as iPS) are stem cells that are extracted from any place in the body, then regenerated in a lab to produce more cells. This process requires fewer cells to be extracted, as the few cells pulled are used to regenerate more stem cells on their own before being used in therapy. Once enough stem cells have been created, they can be put to use.
What does this treatment do?
Stem cell therapy is any procedure that uses stem cells as treatment, usually for a disease. Typically, stem cells are extracted from one part of the body and injected into another, where the damage, or disease, is located. The cells use information from nearby cells to develop into similar cells, regenerating lost tissue and replacing dead cells. This form of regenerative therapy allows the patient’s body to self-repair.
Stem cell therapy is one of the most effective procedures to replace nearly any tissue in the body. A large number of diseases are known to deplete or permanently damage body tissue in a variety of areas, such as organs, in the blood or in the brain. Stem cells can be utilized in regenerating new tissue in the body, where disease is depleting or damaging the pre-existing tissues.
Patients diagnosed with diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s are major candidates for stem cell therapy. These are degenerative diseases, known for destroying brain tissue and muscle tissues throughout the body. Both cause a variety of health issues, including muscle spasms and memory loss. In utilizing stem cell therapy, these “blank slate” cells are injected into the areas of the brain and muscles where they are needed to regenerate the affected tissue quickly and effectively.
How it Works
Stem cell therapy is a simple process. The physician retrieves stem cells from a patient’s body, then injects them into the affected area. There they will regenerate the degenerated or missing tissue. With a mix of chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell therapy, patients could see significant improvement in their health. These improvements tend to occur within a few weeks of treatment.
This process usually begins with chemotherapy or radiation, as stem cell therapy is common for patients with major diseases such as cancer. While these treatments damage the cancerous cells, they may also damage healthy cells. These treatments also make the process of extracting stem cells easier.
Once radiation or chemotherapy is complete and the stem cells are made more accessible, the physician pulls the stem cells from the body. Typically, the cells are brought to a lab to generate more cells. As stem cells are “blank slates”, more can be created in a controlled environment. Physicians are able to stimulate these cells in such a way to generate as many as they need for stem cell therapy.
Once enough stem cells are available, they are injected back into the body where they are needed the most. The physician is able to determine the specific areas of the body where tissue has been damaged and perform local injections, allowing the stem cells to repair more rapidly. Stem cell transplants are most effective when the cells are locally injected.
Once the stem cells are present in the affected area, they over time become like the cells around them. Eventually, the stem cells become brain cells, blood cells or whichever cell types needed to repair damage.