Stem cell therapy is not a new treatment option but has become much more popular in recent years as we have started to discover the many beneficial uses for it. Stem cell treatments have proven to be viable options for medical issues that seemed to have no other medical treatment options.
Here, we will discuss what stem cells are, the type of stem cells, and how they can be used as a treatment option for various conditions.
What is a stem cell?
Stem cells are the body’s basic cell structures. They are the cells that develop into all of the body’s specialized cells. These stem cells divide to make more “daughter” cells, which will either become new stem cells and divide again or will differentiate to perform a specific function such as becoming a blood cell, muscle cell, skin cell, etc.
These differentiated cells can replicate, but only as the same specialized cells that they are. For instance, a red blood cell can only replicate to be another red blood cell and cannot create a bone cell.
Stem cells are the only cells in the body that have the natural ability to generate different cell types. This is how humans go from being a single egg to a fully formed, functioning adult human.
The ability to generate any kind of new cell is what makes them so useful in medical treatment, especially those that seem to be indifferent to other treatment options.
Where do stem cells come from?
There are several sources of stem cells that can be used in stem cell therapy.
Embryonic stem cells
These cells are harvested from embryos that are three to five days old. By this point in the embryonic stage, the embryo is about 150 cells and has not begun to differentiate yet. These pluripotent stem cells are able to become any body-cell type in addition to creating more stem cells. It is these pluripotent stem cells that are most valuable for treatment.
Adult stem cells
A small number of stem cells can be found in adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat, but they have a very limited ability to generate differentiated cells. Adult bone marrow stem cells were once believed to only be able to generate blood cells. However, recent research has proven they are capable of much more than that.
Adult stem cells are not as promising as embryonic stem cells because they have less capacity for manipulation and have been exposed to environmental hazards over the lifetime of the adult.
How do we use these stem cells for therapeutic treatment?
Stem cell therapy is the process of using stem cells to treat diseases or injured tissue by generating new, healthy cells and essentially repairing themselves. For example, if a patient suffers from heart disease and has suffered damage to cardiac cells, stem cells can be used to create new cardiac tissue and help repair the damage.
Stem cell therapies are currently being used to treat a variety of medical conditions including:
- Heart disease
- Joint injuries
- Retinal diseases
- Blood disorders
- Neurological diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Liver disease
For all of the conditions and disorders listed above, the conditions exist because the responsible body part is no longer functioning properly.
Scientists are able to grow stem cells in a lab and manipulate them to specialize into specific types of cells. For instance, to treat chronic joint pain, the cells can be manipulated into ligament, tendon, cartilage, or bone cells. These new cells supply healthy tissue where damaged tissue exists and help repair the joint and relieve chronic pain.
How is stem cell therapy used to treat chronic joint pain?
For regenerative medicine and to treat joint injuries, the majority of stem cells used are harvested from the patient’s own body. Scientists will then stimulate the stem cells to create the tissue that they are attempting to heal. The stem cells are injected into the site that is injured and the new cells get to work repairing the damaged tissue.
Many centers offering stem cell treatment also use platelet-rich plasma treatments to help promote healthy growth and cell repair.
Stem cells have shown great promise in the ability to treat a variety of debilitating diseases and disorders. In the realm of sports medicine, bone marrow transplants, spinal cord injuries, organ transplants, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, stem cells could be the promise of the future.
At Stem Cell Carolina, we offer stem cell therapy in Charlotte, NC. For additional stem cell information and to take advantage of the healing power of stem cell therapy in overcoming your chronic disorders, contact us today!