Stem cell therapy brings new hope to the research world due to their extensive medical applications to treat various medical conditions that do not possess any other treatment option. For over 50 years, scientists across the world have been researching the potential use of stem cells in therapy.
Stem Cells – What are they?
Stem cells are the basic building blocks of human body that are capable of developing into any cell type during the early stages of fetal development. Stem cells are responsible for the formation of blood, muscles, organs, tissue, bones etc., in the body. When the stem cells differentiate, they have the potential to either remain as a stem cell or transform into any other cell type such as blood cell, muscle cell, skin cell or brain cell.
These specialized cells replenish continuously and form essential cells required for growth and normal functioning of the body till the person is alive. These cells are also responsible for the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue and organs, caused by ageing and injury. However, over a period of time, they will become adult stem cells and lose the potential to turn into any cell type and have limited potential compared to embryonic stem cells.
Why are they preferred?
Usually, the stem cells retrieved from the bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are widely used in treating blood related medical conditions. Preserving the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood can be effectively used in treatments as they are HLA typed and readily available. Due to their youthful and pristine (without infection) nature, umbilical cord stem cells are often preferred for stem cell transplants.
What are the beneficial applications of stem cells?
- Drug Discovery – Stem cells shows promising results in the field of medicine discovery. Scientists create tissue or organ models using human stem cells and test the potential of new drugs in the treatment of the disorder. In future, this can lead to customized medical treatment for patients based on their disease progression and body type.
- Study Human Body Mechanism – Stem cell models can help researchers to study and understand the inner working of the living beings at the molecular level and how ageing or external factors contribute to the progression of diseases.
- Treating Blood Disorders – umbilical cord stem cells and bone marrow stem cells are successfully used in the treatment of blood related disorders like Leukemia, lymphoma, and Thalassemia. The combined power of chemotherapy, followed by stem cell transplant will help the body to replenish the immune cells better, thereby increasing the survival rate of patients who undergo radiation.
- Clinical Trial Research – Stem cells are widely used in human clinical trials for treating various disorders like cerebral palsy, cancers, retinal transplants, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.
- Regenerative Medicine – Mesenchymal stem cells have the regenerative capabilities and hence used in various regenerative disorder studies across the world.