Being diagnosed with a chronic disease is difficult enough without having to face all the intrusive medical treatments, sometimes even transplants. The last few years have seen some important advances in regenerative medicine. This is thanks in part to an increase in stem cell therapy clinical trials. Whilst there are still some challenges, as always in the medical field, today, you have the choice of safe and effective therapies.
What is Cell Therapy or Regenerative Medicine?
The simplest explanation for cell therapy is that these therapies essentially treat a disease or medical condition by using the body’s raw materials, cells, that have been designed for a specialist function. As the name suggests, stem cells give rise to, or originate, specialized cells. These include, for example, muscle cells, brain cells, organ cells or any other cell.
- Different types of cells
- Used to treat diseases
- Gene therapy
Different types of cells
Cell therapy uses three different types of stem cells. These are embryonic stem cells, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. The main difference is that adult cells tend to only change into one specific type of cell. Examples are blood cells or the mesenchymal stem cells found in bone marrow and fat tissue. On the other hand, embryonic and pluripotent stem cells can become many different types of cells. Induced simply means that they are made in the lab.
Used to treat diseases
Stem cells are used to research human biology and to treat diseases. They do this by encouraging the body to repair itself. Essentially, stem cell therapy is designed to replace lost or damaged cells that the body can no longer cope with. That’s why cancer patients can benefit from such therapies.
Chemotherapy is highly destructive for blood-forming stem cells that are necessary for repair. So, whilst the body is struggling, stem cell transplants can give it the boost it needs.
Genetic conditions can also damage or destroy cells, tissues, and organs. Furthermore, organ transplants don’t always work because the body can reject this so-called foreign matter. This is why many turn to cell therapy. In general, a patient’s stem cells can grow new organs. These transplants then tend to be more successful because the body is more likely to recognize and accept its own cells.
Benefits of Cell Therapy
Overall, cell therapy treatments fall into the following categories:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular treatments
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Orthopedic issues
- Age degeneration
Cell therapy is one of the least intrusive treatments for helping those manage chronic conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. When patients suffer from these diseases, their immune system attacks normal cells and antibodies that they need to function properly.
Whilst steroids can help in the short term, cell therapy introduces stem cells into the body to heal damaged tissue and regulate the immune system. For these cases, mesenchymal stem cells are taken from donated umbilical cords. They not only support the immune system but they also specifically target inflamed tissue. There, they then start producing anti-inflammatory agents.
Cell therapy research and clinical trials have now proven that stem cells from adult bone marrow can repair blood vessels and support the healing of any scar tissue around the heart. For these cases, for example a heart attack, stem cells can also come from a donor which means faster treatment.
Parkinson’s diseases and Huntington’s involve nerves and the nervous system such that patients develop impaired movement and reduced cognitive function. However, transplanted adult stem cells, as part of cell therapy, could support forming new neurons and brain cells so reconnecting critical synapses.
Stem cell therapy to treat spinal diseases or road accidents is another example. As mentioned, stem cells focus on any damaged areas to repair cells which then also alleviates pain and discomfort.
Cell therapy is all about regeneration. What better example than age for all of us to understand? No one is exempt from this degeneration, including poor eyesight and daily pain. On the contrary, aging should be about being as comfortable as possible and with as much dignity as we can have. Cell therapy could potentially provide that for all of us.
What’s Next For You and Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy is still at the forefront of medical research. Nevertheless, cell therapy is gaining success in real-life situations. After all, how can encouraging the body to heal itself not be a good thing? Naturally though, there are debates around how stem cells are harvested including moral implications in taking them from embryos. As mentioned, treatments now have the option to come from adult stem cells such as bone marrow and donated umbilical cords, amongst other sources. So, why not do some research for where your stem cells could come from if it’s going to make a difference to your life and ability to function?