Stem cell therapy is very effective in treating several conditions and is often an alternative to surgery. It also offers great promise for new medical treatments that help patients regain function and enjoy an active lifestyle.
What Are Stem Cells?
The human body requires many different types of cells to function. In fact, the human body comprises more than 200 different types of cells. Each cell type has a specific structure appropriate for its job. However, the body does not produce each cell type fully formed and ready to use. Instead, it produces stem cells that have a wide range of possible functions.
Stem cells are the cells from which all other cells with specialized functions originate. They are the body’s “raw material.” Scientists call a stem cell an undifferentiated cell because it can become any cell.
Under the right conditions, stem cells divide to form more cells called “daughter cells.” The daughter cells can either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or specialized cells (differentiation). A blood cell is an example of a ‘differentiated’ cell because it is a specific kind of cell. Only stem cells have the ability to generate new cell types.
Why is There Interest in Stem Cells?
Stem cells are used to:
- Understand how diseases occur. By observing stem cells mature into cells in bones, nerves, and other organs and tissue, researchers hope to understand better how diseases develop.
- Generate healthy cells (regenerative medicine) to replace diseased cells. Stem cells can be guided into becoming specific cells that can be used to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissues in people.
Stem cells have the potential to become new tissue for use in transplant, in addition to treating several debilitating conditions. Patients who may benefit from stem cell therapies include people with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and osteoarthritis among others.
Researchers are also studying the effectiveness of using reprogrammed human stem cells to test new drugs, by programming them to acquire properties of the type of cells targeted by a drug.
Where Are Different Types of Stem Cells?
There are three types of stem cells
- Adult Stem Cells (Somatic Stem Cells) naturally exist in the body. They are essential for growth, healing, and replacing cells that are lost through daily wear and tear. Under natural circumstances, adult stem cells can become only a subset of related cell types (bone marrow stem cells are used primarily to become blood cells).
- Embryonic Stem Cells are formed as a regular part of embryonic development. They can be isolated from an early embryo and grown in a dish. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the body.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS) are artificially created stem cells in the lab by “reprogramming” a patient’s own cells, so they have the properties of embryonic stem cells. iPS cells can be made from a patient’s readily available cells including fat, skin, and fibroblasts (cells that produce connective tissue). They hold the potential for treating many diseases. Most importantly, iPS cells are made from a patient’s own cells, so there is no danger of rejection by the immune system.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy (regenerative medicine) promotes the repair response of diseased, dysfunctional, or injured tissues. This therapy is the process of replacing or “regenerating cells, tissues, and organs to restore or establish normal function.”
There is evidence that the benefits of stem cell therapy may include dramatic anti-inflammatory effects and the potential to aid in tissue repair. Injecting stem cells can help manage inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis, joint pain associated with early arthritis, and cartilage damage. This type of therapy has been shown to help treat conditions that were unresponsive to the injection of hyaluronic acid (Durolane) to help relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis.
Stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive treatment that offers an alternative to painful surgery and lengthy recovery times. The treatment helps to reduce joint inflammation quickly. Many patients report an improvement in just a couple of days with an increase in range of motion and mobility with continued gradual improvement in their overall condition over time.
Stem Cells in Drug Development
Scientists are now using stem cells to help develop and test new drugs with the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). By growing differentiated cells, scientists can make the stem cells resemble cancer cells and use them for testing anti-cancer drugs.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and specializes in treating chronic pain with stem cell therapy. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.
Our Mission Statement: To provide the best quality of life to people suffering from pain, by providing state of the art treatments, knowledge and skill, compassion, and respect for all.
Stem Cell Resources
Stem cells: What they are and what they do (Mayo Clinic)
What are stem cells and why are they important? (Medical News Today)
Stem Cell Information – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (National Institutes of Health)
Stem Cell Basics – Cells in the Human Body (International Society for Stem Cell Research – ISSCR)
Stem Cell Quick Reference (University of Utah)