The human body has an amazing capacity to regenerate itself. In fact, every single cell in our body, from the ones that make the optic nerve to the cells that line the GI tract, originated from a stem cell.
Stem cell therapy was once considered science fiction. Today, it has many accepted uses in a variety of fields and can even be used in stem cell surgeries.
Let’s take a closer look into what stem cells are and how they are used to treat disease. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating and rapidly-evolving field.
The Root of Regenerative Medicine
Stem cell therapy is unlike any other type of medicine. In a sense, doctors let the body’s own regenerative ability to heal itself.
But exactly what are stem cells and what is stem cell treatment used for? What are the benefits of stem cell surgery?
To answer these and other questions, let’s dive into the amazing world of these essential cells.
A Primer on Stem Cells
Stem cells are what we called pluripotent cells, meaning they have the ability to become a number of different cells, depending on the body’s need.
Consider this example. All of the types of blood cells that run through your veins all came from a single type of cell. In other words, white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets all share a common precursor.
In fact, when you think about it, every cell in our bodies came from a single fertilized egg cell. Within this quintessential stem cell is the capacity to become any type of cell, be it a skin cell or a hepatocyte.
Stem Cell Therapy
Our body uses stem cells to grow, develop, regenerate, and heal. For example, your skin cells are constantly being created from stem cells to replace cells lost from normal shedding or injury.
Since their discovery, researchers have tried to harness their healing potential. It was only in 1981 when we were first able to derive stem cells from mice embryos.
Today, stem cell therapy has evolved into a well-established and diverse field.
Common Uses of Stem Cell Surgeries
Stem cell therapy has an established use for a number of diseases.
Here are some of the most common applications. However, as research develops, this list will continue to grow.
Stem cell therapy has given hope to people living with certain forms of cancer. Oftentimes, people are don’t respond well to conventional drugs might be considered for stem cell surgery.
Leukemias are sometimes referred to as ‘blood cancers’. They make up an all too common type of disease. There are many types and subtypes but stem cells can be used to treat a number of them.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a condition in which the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are replaced by immature blood cells that not capable of carrying out the basic functions of the cell.
If untreated, this can lead to debilitating anemia, a weakened immune system, and uncontrolled bleeding. ALL is the most common juvenile malignancy and cause of cancer death in children.
Despite this, tireless research has lead to several treatment options, including stem cell transplantation. Because of this, the mortality rates have plummeted to a fraction of what they were in decades past.
Lymphomas are a related group of diseases that often share similar characteristics with leukemias.
Generally, they are divided into Hodgkin’s lymphomas and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Patients with either kind may benefit from receiving stem cells.
Other malignancies that can be treated with stem cells include multiple myeloma (MM), neuroblastoma, Ewing sarcoma, gliomas, and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Aside from cancer, stem cell therapy is also used in a number of disorders. Mostly, it used to treat conditions of the blood.
It can play a role in the treatment of certain anemias, namely, thalassemia, aplastic anemia, sickle cell, and others.
Other conditions it can be used for include osteopetrosis, mucopolysaccharidosis, pyruvate kinase deficiency, and a range of autoimmune diseases.
Novel Benefits of Stem Cell Surgeries
Treating conditions of the blood was where it all began. However, it did not end there.
It soon became apparent that stem cell therapy has the potential to revolutionize medicine in a big way.
Here are some of the wide range of conditions that can be treated with stem cells.
Arthritis, aging, and injuries are some of the common causes of joint pain. Our joints and articulations are made up of cartilage, tendons, ligaments, bone, and other structures.
Damage to any of these can lead to pain and disability.
Directed stem cell therapy can regenerate any of the damaged tissues and get you moving better. Suffering from joint degeneration or injury? Learn more here.
Neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are common in elderly people and can have a devastating impact on quality of life.
On a cellular level, these conditions lead to the loss of certain brain cells and atrophy of structures that control movement and cognitive functions. Hopefully, stem cell therapy may be able to replenish the lost cell and restore function.
As of now, treatments exist but these conditions have no cure. Stem cell research is vital if we want to eradicate these all too painful conditions.
Brain and Spinal Cord Injury
Traumatic injury to any part of the brain and/or spinal cord was once thought to be permanent. We know now that nerve cells have the ability to grow and heal themselves.
Despite the possibilities of neuroplasticity, it works very slowly and people with severed nerves, for example, aren’t likely to be healed without treatment.
Stem cell therapy may allow lost nerve cells to rapidly regenerate in ways once thought impossible.
The Golden Age of Regenerative Medicine
Just what does the future of regenerative medicine hold for healthcare workers and patients? Stem cell surgeries are being developed that have the potential to change millions of lives.
A Golden Age is coming. The possibilities are truly endless.
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