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‪‪Stem-cell Therapy‬‬ Basics

Updated on July 11, 2017

What Is a Stem Cell?

A stem cell is an undifferentiated biological cell. It can develop into other cells like skin cells, blood cells, etc. An undifferentiated cell is a cell that has not yet acquired a structure and function. Stem cell “blank slate” cell.

Stem Cells Usually Come from Either Embryos or Adult Tissue

Stem cells usually come from either embryos formed during the blastocyst phase (the second stage of a fertilized egg) of embryological development, or adult tissue.

Main Purpose of Stem Cells Is to Maintain, Heal and Regenerate Tissues

The main purpose of stem cells is to maintain, heal and regenerate tissues in the body. This is a continuous process that goes on inside the body throughout life. If you did not have stem cells, your lifespan would be about one hour, because there would be nothing to replace exhausted cells or damaged tissue.

Stem Cells Are Pluripotent

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Types of Stem Cells

Type
Embryonic stem cells
Mesenchymal stem cells
Tissue-specific stem cells
Induced pluripotent stem cells

Embryonic Stem Cells

These pluripotent stem cells are derived from the undifferentiated inner mass cells of the embryo. They are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that are fertilized in vitro.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells

These multipotent stromal cells can differentiate into many cell types. Mesenchyme is that part of the embryonic mesoderm that contains loosely held, unspecialized cells that are set in a gelatinous ground substance. Connective tissue, bone, cartilage, circulatory system and lymphatic system develop from these cells.

Tissue-Specific Stem Cells

Also known as somatic stem cells, these adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells. They are found all over the body.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

These stem cells can be generated directly from adult cells. They are also known as iPS cells. Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese Nobel Prize-winning stem cell research scientist, is the pioneer of the induced pluripotent stem cell technology.

What Is ‪‪Stem-cell Therapy?

Stem-cell therapy is a type of cell therapy in which stem cells are used to treat a medical condition. It is also used or prevent diseases. Bone marrow transplant is the most prevalent stem-cell therapy. The first successful bone marrow transplant was performed in 1968.

Stem Cell Therapy Is a Hope in Medicine

Stem cell therapy is a controversial treatment that more and more patients are paying up to $50,000 to receive. Many experts consider it to be the next big hope in medicine, with researchers everywhere investigating the technology’s potential to treat seemingly every ailment known to mankind. This therapy is illegal in many countries.

Uses of Stem-Cell Therapy

According to the California Stem Cell Agency, stem cell therapy can be used to treat many diseases; there is no limit.

To Treat Cardiovascular Diseases

Stem cells taken from adult bone marrow can differentiate into cells required for repairing the heart and the blood vessels. Stem-cell therapy stimulates repair and promotes growth of blood vessel tissue.

To Treat Autism

In this interview, Neil Riordan, PhD, PA, speaks about stem-cell therapy for Autism. Neil is the Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer of the Riordan-McKenna Institute, which offers stem-cell therapy for various medical conditions.

To Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Transplanted adult stem cells are used to form neurons, new brain cells, and synapses. Stem-Cell therapy is used to treat various neurodegenerative problems like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

To Treat Orthopedic Injuries

Mesenchymal stem cells are used to treat bone problems. These stem cells differentiate and form orthopedic tissues that make up muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and adipose tissues.

Source

To Treat Arthritis

For patients with advanced arthritis pain, stem cell treatment is a promising therapy. Enough progress has been made in cell transplant therapy that autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), a cell transplant therapy using the patient’s own cells, is widely used to replace cartilage between joints.

To Treat Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes affects more than 422 million people worldwide. An innovative method for treating type 1 diabetes based on transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells obtained from the patient's bone marrow started undergoing testing in Brazil more than a decade ago.

Variable Results

The results were variable. While some volunteers were able to stop self-injecting insulin for more than a decade, others had to resume use of the medicine only a few months after receiving the experimental treatment.

One possible explanation for this variation in the outcome for the 25 patients who participated in the research study was presented in an article which was published recently in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

According to the authors, the duration of the therapeutic effect was less in participants whose immune systems had attacked the pancreatic cells aggressively in the pre-transplantation period.

This research study was conducted at the Center for Cell-Based Therapy in Brazil. It was led by Julio Voltarelli, an immunologist, who expired in March 2012. Maria Carolina de Oliveira Rodrigues and Belinda Pinto Simões took over the reins of leadership after Voltarelli's death.

"Because type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, the aim of the treatment is to 'switch off' the immune system temporarily using chemotherapy drugs and 'restart' it by means of the transplantation of autologous hematopoietic stem cells, which can differentiate into every kind of blood cell," Rodrigues explained.

Because type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, the aim of the treatment is to 'switch off' the immune system temporarily using chemotherapy drugs and 'restart' it by means of the transplantation of autologous hematopoietic stem cells, which can differentiate into every kind of blood cell.

— Maria Carolina Oliveira Rodrigues, MD, PhD

By the time the symptoms of type 1 diabetes begin to show, she added, around 80 percent of the patient's pancreatic islets have already been damaged. If the remaining cells are protected by interrupting autoimmune aggression at this point, the patient can produce insulin, but in small amounts.

"Studies with animals and diabetic humans suggest the percentage of insulin-producing cells declines sharply, reaching almost zero between six and eight weeks after diagnosis. Our center has therefore set a six-week limit for patients to start the transplantation process," said Rodrigues.

25 patients aged between 12 years and 35 years were initially included in the study. The therapeutic effect has lasted an average of 42 months, but ranges overall from 6 months to 12 years, the longest follow-up period so far. 3 patients are completely insulin-free. 1 person has been insulin-free for 10 years, another for 11, and the third for 12.

A research study conducted by Ye and team, which was published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy,investigated the effects AHSCT (autologous hematopoietic stem cell treatment) had on the immune response in recently diagnosed diabetes type 1 patients.

The study included 18 patients (between 12 years and 35 years) with type 1 diabetes who had been diagnosed within less than 6 months. Of these 18 participants, 10 received a traditional insulin injection as treatment and eight received AHSCT. An additional 15 patients who matched in age, gender and BMI of these two groups were enrolled as a control group.

To test the effects of the treatment on immune response, patients peripheral blood cells were assessed. Samples were taken before they began treatment and then again one year after either the AHSCT or insulin-only therapies were administered.

Before treatment, peripheral blood cell distribution was almost equivalent in the two groups. After one year a significant difference was observed.

The results of this study indicated that patients receiving AHSCT exhibited significantly reduced development and function of Th1 and Th17 cells compared to those who received only the insulin treatment. Th1 and Th17 are types of T cells that cause inflammation in autoimmune diseases.

The inhibition of T-cell proliferation and function, along with decreased production of cytokines (pivotal chemical messengers which aid an immune response) observed in patients receiving AHSCT treatment shows that there is a link between the therapy and effects on the patient’s immune response. This explains why AHSCT results in better therapeutic effects when compared with insulin-only traditional therapy.

The authors note that the small number of participants and length of the study are the two main limitations. Future studies should include a larger number of patients and long-term follow up, especially since AHSCT can cause damage to the bone marrow and cause potentially serious infections.

Progression of type 1 diabetes, as mentioned above, results in unavoidable immune damage from inflammation. This study suggests the combination of therapies including AHSCT treatment and high-dose immunosuppressive drugs may be a potential new therapeutic approach to the disease.

Experts hypothesize that this combination can “reset” the immune system and enhance the recovery capacity of beta cells. More clinical studies are essential to throw more light on the mechanism and use of stem cell therapy for this disease.


Stem Cell Therapy for Hair

Stem cell therapy is used to treat hair loss. Stem cells promote hair growth within three to four weeks of treatment. Hair density increases by 30 percent to 40 percent after three sessions of treatment.

On an average, six sessions are needed once in a week to 10 days, along with which supplements are prescribed. Stem cells stimulate dead hair follicles and transforms them into healthy hair follicles.

Stem cell therapies can help patients have a more sustainable and rewarding life.

What Does the Future Hold?

In May 2017, lawmakers in Texas approved a bill authorizing stem cell therapies, putting the state on track to become the first state to explicitly recognize the experimental treatments.

Liver Cells

Scientists have formed liver cells from some sources of mesenchymal stem cells but these cells have not been applied clinically yet. They are also working to create stem cells differentiated along the pancreatic line as a possible cure for diabetes, but no line has been well established.

Motor Functions

Research scientists at the University of South Florida found in a study that bone marrow stem cell transplants helped improve motor functions and nervous system conditions in mice with ALS by repairing damage to the blood-spinal cord barrier.

This study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. Research scientists in USF’s Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair are of the opinion that the results of their experiment are an early step in pursuing stem cells for potential repair of the blood-spinal cord barrier, which has been identified as key in the development of ALS.

To Reverse Liver Cirrhosis

A clinical trial conducted by a multi-centre team led by the National University Hospital (NUH) is exploring possibility of using stem cell therapy to reverse liver cirrhosis.

The $2.6 million study aims to determine if stem cell therapy can improve liver function. It is funded by the National Medical Research Council.

46 patients will be recruited for this study. It will run for four years. Patients will not need to bear the costs of the stem cell treatment. Stem cells will be taken from a patient's own bone marrow and will be isolated and injected directly into the patient's liver to initiate the repair.

Take Care of Your Stem Cells

While it is easy to think of stem cell therapy as some sort of a miracle, it definitely makes sense to implement strategies that nourish and optimize the stem cells we already have in your body.

"You have to create an appropriate environment for these cells to function in. If you are putting garbage into your body and you’re constantly burdening your body with toxins, your stem cells are getting too distracted trying to fight off those toxins. By creating an appropriate environment, optimizing your diet and reducing exposure to toxins, that will allow the stem cells that we’re putting in to really home in and focus on the true issue that we’re trying to treat.

The other thing we’ve discovered over the years is that [stem cell therapy] is not the type of thing where you take one dose and you’re cured forever. Your tissues are constantly getting damaged … You’re going to have to repeat-dose and use those stem cells to your advantage.

When you think about a lizard that loses its tail, it takes two years to grow back the tail. Why would we put unrealistic expectations on the stem cells that we’re trying to apply to repair or replace damaged tissue? This is a very slow process. This is something that will occur over months and may require repeat dosing," wrote Dr. Kristin Comella, a notable Stem Cell innovator.

You have to create an appropriate environment for these cells to function in. If you are putting garbage into your body and you’re constantly burdening your body with toxins, your stem cells are getting too distracted trying to fight off those toxins. By creating an appropriate environment, optimizing your diet and reducing exposure to toxins, that will allow the stem cells that we’re putting in to really home in and focus on the true issue that we’re trying to treat.

— Dr. Kristin Comella, a notable Stem Cell innovator

Summary

  • A stem cell can develop into other cells.
  • Bone marrow transplant is the most prevalent stem-cell therapy.
  • Many medical conditions can be treated with stem cell therapy.
  • Stem cells can differentiate into cells needed to repair heart and blood vessels.
  • Stem cell therapy is used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat a multitude of diseases and illnesses, which up until now have been labelled 'incurable.

— Peter Jackson

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