Stem cells refer to a group of body cells which are able to differentiate to form specialized cells. The cells also possess the ability to self-replicate leading to more stem cells. When they do differentiate, stem cells can replicate cell in the body. In humans, there are two primary types of stem cells; embryonic and somatic (adult) stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are formed during the blastocyst phase of development (4 – 5 days). Somatic stem cells, on the other hand, are located in different body tissues throughout the body. They are found in both children and adults in tissues such as blood, bone marrow, skeletal muscle and the liver. Due to self-renewal and the ability to produce daughter cells identical to the parent cell, stem cells are able to remain free from damage and genetic deformities.
What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy also known as regenerative medicine is the use of stem cell to restore injured, degenerated or diseased body tissues. The cells are manipulated into a specific type of cells and are transplanted into affected organs to replace the damaged cells and contribute in repairing the defective tissue.
Common conditions treated with stem cell therapy
The defects treatable with stem cell therapy are wide and varied with the following conditions being the most common.
Stem cell therapy is used to treat and relieve pain in joints resistant to the Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. It is most commonly used for the larger joints of the hips and the knee. The treatment is effective in reducing inflammation and pain caused by injuries to the Achilles tendons, rotator cuffs, and shoulder joints. Tissue healing is permanent and patients experience gradual pain relief as they heal. To ease the pain, approved painkillers are prescribed.
Stem cells can be an effective treatment of certain forms of cancer with the most common being leukemia. The therapy is used to transplant healthy bone marrow cells into patients. During chemotherapy, some of the patient’s bone marrow is affected. This is where the blood cells are produced and in turn it compromises the entire body’s immunity. The purpose of this stem cell therapy (bone marrow transplant) is to replace the worn out cells with healthy cells once chemotherapy is completed. This allows the bone marrow to continue performing its functions. In some isolated cases, the transplant has shown to raise immunity level of the patients allowing the body to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.
Recent improvements have led to clinical tests to the use of advanced stem cell therapy in treating heart defects, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s conditions. Stem cell operations are delicate procedures and should be performed by certified professionals in specialized centers.