Lately we hear a lot about stem cells and how they have a lot to offer to help patients improve their health treating or preventing a lot of diseases, but what are they and how can they be used?
What are they?
The human body is an amazing machine built from hundreds of millions of highly specialized cells, each one of them have a specific task in order to help it to grow and work properly. Along those specialized cells, humans and most plants and animals have stem cells, these are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to develop into many different cell types that will take a specific function when needed.
Basically they are the origin of every organ in our bodies and there are two types depending on their source: embryonic and adult stem cells, both with regenerative abilities.
What is stem cells job?
The stem cells job is to heal and repair the organism replacing damaged cells. These cells are found inside of almost every tissue such blood, brain, skin, bone marrow, muscles, etc. When our body has a disease or an injury stems cells transform to the type of cell injured to help the healing process.
A stem cell therapy is when those cells are used for medical purposes. The doctor harvest stems cells usually from the patient’s or a donor’s fat tissue or bone marrow, separate the cells from fat or bone fragments and sometimes cultivate them. One of the main features of stem cells is their ability to divide and produce more stem cells without losing their properties. When the cells are needed by a patient, the specialist has to assign specific function to those cells and inject them into the injured or diseased area so they can help the body to regenerate.
How are they extracted?
If stem cells come from bone marrow, where they are more concentrated, the doctor will use an special needle attached to a syringe to get marrow and blood out of the bone in a 1 or 2 hours procedure. There are no significant risks from donating bone marrow, the donor can be a little bit sore for a couple of days but the cells removed from his body will regenerate in weeks. For the patient it will take some time to recover, it depends on each person and each disease, in general recovery takes between 3 and 6 months for an autologous transplant (cells from the same patient) and between 12 and 18 months for an allogeneic transplant (cells from a donor).
What diseases can be treated with a stem cell therapy?
Some of the current diseases treated with these therapies are: joint disease, arthritis, heart diseases, erectile dysfunction, paralysis, colitis, brain performance, diabetes, lupus, leukemia, lymphoma, autism, strokes, parkinson, other chronic degenerative diseases and also anti-aging and hair restoration treatments, all of them with great results. In some of those diseases or pathologies the improvement degree recorded is from 80% to 100% success.
It is believed by some patients and doctors that stem cells are the future of medicine. It is promising to know that there are still a lot therapies under investigation, even therapies to grow healthy tissue.