You may have probably heard the hoopla surrounding stem cell by now. To some people, it may seem like an overblown topic that just refuses to die, but it really does merit the endless debates that have been waged in its name. And all the other related methods and treatments that are a part of stem cell therapy have been dragged into the quintessential muck as well, like stem cell transplantation, for one.
In a nutshell, stem cell therapy is an offshoot of immunology, but its potential and uses go far beyond that; currently, it serves a tool for regeneration of tissues which have been damaged or necrotized. How can that be? Stem cells are touted to be potentially immortal cells that are capable of self-renewal and differentiation. For example, these can continually replenish the body’s entire supply of both red blood cells and white blood cells.
Several stem cells have been recently discovered, all with varying functions and purposes: Totipotent Cells , which mean that these can form new types of organisms, have regenerative properties; and embryonic stem cells, which are described as Pluripotent, can give riste numerous cell types that are able to form tissues. These are just of the more common types used for treatment.
Numerous researches have shown that stem cells can restore an immune system that has been destroyed. Stem cell transplantation, in whole or in part, has been carried out in human subjects with certain types of immune dysfunctions, such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SID) for example. Clinical trials are also being performed for other admitted patients with a variety of disorders having an autoimmune component, which can include Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Scleroderma, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)—all of which happen to affect the musculoskeletal system in different ways.
Further research with embryonic stem cells have also revealed clinical researchers to make substantial leaps and bounds in the fields of developmental biology, gene therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering, and the related treatment of a variety of diseases. However, along with these remarkable and amazing opportunities, many ethical challenges have been coming up in the forefront. These are mainly based on concerns with regards to safety, efficacy, resource allocation, and—also a “hot button” issue—human cloning.
More recently, though, researchers and doctors alike may have found a possible way of extracting stem cells from various sources. One notable example is the adult bone marrow which, apart from being infused with allogeneic transplant (not from the host’s body) stem cell, is also an abundant repository for stem cells, as well. Stem cells of other “cultured” mammals like mice and sheep have also been found to boast similar traits of its stem cell with humans; therefore, extracting them sooner than later has become a viable option for stem cell research and development. Finally, the quickest way that researchers have discovered is that the umbilical cord of the fetus connecting to the mother contains massive quantities of young stem cells. Stem cell research and therapy using “cord blood” is now being proven as an efficient and well-organized “alternative” to the more established stem cell derivatives.
All of these new developments can only prove to be helpful in performing safe and ethical stem cell transplantation. You can ask your doctor about it if you have any further concerns.