Stem cell therapy is a new branch of medicine promising great results for patients with a wide range of diseases. In the same time, however, scientists are eager to point out that stem cell treatment today is still a largely experimental field, 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 human body. Stem cell research is still ongoing and for some of its results, we can wait for years to come.
In the same time, some clinics praise the application of stem cells as the solution to any possible illness, offering for example stem cell therapy for cancer. Who should we believe? Where should we seek a reliable stem cell transplant? In this article, we will try to shed some light on stem cell therapy, its premises and effectiveness.
What Is a Stem Cell Therapy?
To answer this question, first, we need to learn what stem cells are. 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. While they are not fully developed body cells, many stem cells may become only a specific type of cells in the future. The only truly universal stem cells are embryonic or pluripotent stem cells acquired from blastocysts developed in vitro for the sake of research.
As for stem cell therapy itself, it is based on the premise that stem cells injected into 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 of 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. Pluripotent stem cells are, as it was mentioned, 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. Finally, hematopoietic stem cells are produced by acquiring the blood (usually patient’s own blood, so-called autologous stem cell transplant) and processing it.
How Exactly Does It Work?
In theory (and in the case of some types of stem cell therapy, in practice), the application of stem cells should result in the growth of new, healthy cells. For example, stem cell treatment for cancer of blood called leukaemia has proven to help patients in fighting this life-threatening condition.
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 (leukaemia) – 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 fight leukaemia with very good results.
- Stem cell therapy for eye and skin problems – stem cell injections were tested in a variety of eye problems and skin problems 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 regeneration of knee tissues damaged by injuries. 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 or lungs. Finally, stem cell therapy may be useful in some cosmetic procedures such as stem cell injections 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. Finally, 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.