What is stem cell therapy?
The procedure of using stem cells to treat a disease/clinical condition is known as stem cell therapy. Stem cells are the basic cells which can differentiate into any type of cell as per the need of the body. Stem cells are also called as pluripotent or progenitor cells. In cases where extensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions are done, healthy host tissues are also targeted along with the tumor cells by the radiations and the cytotoxic drugs. These agents cannot differentiate between the healthy and cancer cells and bring about death of both the type of cells. Thus a stem cell therapy can help in the regeneration of lost healthy tissues for the proper functioning of the human body.
Diseases/Conditions requiring stem cell therapy:
- Brain: Conditions such as brain degeneration, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease have been effectively treated in rat and pig models with the administration of stem cells. The brain naturally contains neural stem cells which begin defective functioning in diseases mentioned above. As a result of inducing stem cells, these begin to act in the way a neural stem cell would have. In cases of spinal cord injury due to trauma where oligodendrocytes are lost, stem cells act as one and help in the healing and nerve impulse generation and transmission.
- Heart: Possibly the only known cardiac condition till now which can be cured using stem cell therapy is myocardial infarction. Stem cells can be taken from the host’s bone marrow and transplanted from a donor. These stem cells differentiate and help in the formation of new cardiac muscle cells and fibers thereby adding strength to the heart.
- Blood: Stem cell therapy can also be used to generate red and white blood cells in order to mimic the host’s bone marrow. Erythropoitin, a growth factor can also be added. This is most commonly done in cases of leukemia and lymphoma.
- Teeth: Quite a debatable topic, researchers are confident of growing a whole new tooth with the help of stem cells. The cells derived from the periodontal ligament of tooth can be preserved in vitro and allowed to develop into a tooth bud. This bud when implanted into the gums and jaws of the individual will eventually develop and emerge into a fully grown tooth. These experiments have proved successful in mice, however human studies as of now have not been substantial.
- Hair: Embryonic cells can be used for the development of hair follicles and thus the growth of hair in people who suffer from long standing cases of alopecia. This is one of the most commonly used and successful type of stem cell therapy.
- Pancreas: In case of type 1 diabetes, the beta cells in the pancreas are not produced or are in abundance but do not form insulin. In such cases, embryonic stem cells can be administered which eventually form new and healthy beta cells and eradicate diabetic conditions.
- Eyes: Retinal and corneal stem cells can very successfully be transplanted in the recipient in order to restore vision. These cells can be derived from the aborted fetus or individuals who have donated their eyes after passing away. However retinal and corneal cells cannot be grown in vitro in laboratories and preserved. Thus the choice of stem cells source becomes limited.
- Bone: Experiments are being conducted as to allow bone and muscle to grow in cases of trauma and injuries, in cartilage repairing and most importantly to prevent arthritis by the transplantation of mesenschymal stromal cells.
- Wound healing: Stem cells are known to stimulate the growth of human tissues. A wound is always replaced by a scar tissue. Scar comprises of disorganized collagen structure and an irregular vascular system. A wounded tissue can be replaced with a healthy one by the transplantation of stem cells. This is done by placing the stem cells into the bed of the wound and allowing the stem cells to begin their action as per their pace.
Types of/Sources Of stem cell therapy:
A majority of stem cells used for the therapy are isolated either from the patient’s bone marrow or from the adipose tissues. Bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles can be repaired and regenerated with the help of mesenchymal stem cells. Those derived from the bone marrow are allowed to undergo specific treatments in the laboratories and are made ready for the next transplantation. Stem cells derived from the adipose tissues require less culturing treatment than the bone marrow ones.
Research is being carried out to identify stem cells from the skin and dermis since their harvest poses minimal risks. Blood derived stem cells are also under the process of discovery as they also posses the ability like the mesenchymal cells to regrow damaged tissues. There has been a great interest to find out about the stem cells found in the umbilical cord, yolk sac and placenta of humans which can be extracted at the time of parturition and treated further for harvesting.
Treatment procedures for stem cell therapy:
- Stem cells can be administered in the following ways:
- Intravenous: The stem cells are injected into the venous system directly.
- Intramuscular: It is the administration of cells directly into the target area via muscles. The targeted areas can be knee, elbow, neck etc
- Intrathecal: Also known as lumbar puncture, this method infuses stem cells into the spinal cord so that the blood brain barriers are avoided and the cells directly reach the cerebrospinal fluid. This is the choice of infusion in cases of neural degenerative diseases.
- Intra-arterial: A catheter inserted into the artery is used to administer the stem cells in cases of stem cell therapy for organs like heart, kidney and pancreas.
- Intra dermal: Stem cells can be directly injected into the epidermal layer of skin around wounds such as diabetic foot or pressure sores and ulcers. The same can be done for hair follicles in cases of hair transplantation procedures.
- Intra vitreal infusion: This method employs injecting the stem cells directly in the vitreous layer of eye in order to correct the ophthalmic defects. A retrobulbar infusion of stem cells can also be an alternative approach for the correction of eye disorders.
Complications and risk factors associated with stem cell therapy:
- Bleeding can be a primary complication at the time of stem cell administration
- Infection at the site of infusion
- Damage to the liver due to rapid infusion
- Interstitial pneumonia as a result of lung inflammation
- Dry and damaged mouth, esophagus, lungs, and other organs
Am I a good candidate for stem cell therapy?
If it has been brought to your notice that you are struck with a degenerative disease, you are an ideal candidate for a stem cell therapy.
Stem cell therapy will enable your body to grow and regenerate tissues which have been lost as a part of your treatment. The overall healthy functioning of the body is restored.
Why choose India?
One of the major leading countries in the world in terms of medical sciences, India has always been in the forefront for its diversified research work in the field of molecular biology. Team MedcureIndia works in close affiliation with such skilled institutes and makes it a point to direct its clients to them.