You may have heard about stem cell and its miracle purposes but are all the information you know about stem cell true? Here is everything you need to know about stem cell treatment.
Stem cell treatment is turning out to be a new promising field in modern medical treatment. Several diseases are now curable with this therapy. Yet there are still unclear risks and unapproved information about the treatment among patients as well as customers. Following are underlying knowledge, current and possible uses and potential dangers that customers should know before taking any stem cell treatments.
What are stem cells?
Cells are the fundamental units that make up the human body. Stem cells – basically, are the origins of all the functional cells in our body. They are unspecialized cells with the ability to develop into different types of cells. For instance, nerve cells, bone cells and blood cells.
There are many different stem cells coming from different parts of our body or forming at a different time during our lives. Generally, scientists seperate them into 2 main types: embryonic and adult stem cells.
- Embryonic stem cells: They derive from embryos. Most of the embryos come from women’s eggs. Scientists fertilize them at in vitro fertilization clinics. The owners may donate their eggs for medical purposes. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent – which means they can become any cells in human body.
- Adult stem cells: They exist in small numbers in most adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. The adaptation of this type of stem cell is restricted.
Embryonic stem cells only exist for a short period at the early stage of development. On the other hand, adult cells (or tissue-specific cells) appear during fetal development and maintain throughout our life.
What is stem cell treatment?
The two critical abilities of any stem cell are differentiating (developing into specialized cells) and self-renewing (making copies of themselves). Applying these abilities, stem cell treatment uses stem cells to replace or repair damaged tissues naturally.
Stem cells treatment providers mostly use embryonic cells. This is because they are easier to find and specialize into all kinds of functional cells in the body. Although research in adult stem cell is more and more promising, adult cells are much more limited in developing ability in comparison with embryonic cells. They may not be able to develop into all kinds of cells. In other words, they can treat a limited certain types of diseases only.
Scientists grow embryonic stem cells in a lab with special conditions. These stem cells then develop into several types of functional cells such as heart muscle cells or blood cells. Doctors will implant (or inject) those cells into a person to repair their damaged tissues or organs. For example, if someone has heart failure, the cells can be injected into the heart muscle. Those transplanted cells then could repair defective heart muscle.
What diseases can be treated using Stem cell therapies in the future?
In theory, stem cell treatment can treat all types of diseases. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most outstanding among those promising fields. According to Sally Temple, co-founder of the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer, N.Y, one of the reasons is that “the eye is an accessible part of the central nervous system and you can look in and see what you are doing”.
Researchers and scientists have been working on stem cell treatment for years. So far, cord blood stem cell transplantation is the most widely used therapy among 10 stem cell treatments that have been proven by FDA (as of January 2016). Doctors apply them for nearly 80 diseases, including certain types of cancer and blood disorders.
Stem cell treatment – A bright future, but…
As a potential field in medical treatment, stem cell and and its application have been strongly studying around the world. Researchers believe that stem cell therapy can cure several problems, including heart failure, brain cancer and neurodegenerative disease.
However, there are just a few clinically proven treatments at the moment. There is no clear evidence for the ability to travel throughout the body, find out the damaged tissues or organs of those stem cells and fix the issues themselves.
In spite of many potential opportunities for modern medicine coming from stem cell therapy, it has risk factors though. The risk profile depends on factors like the types of stem cell, their differentiation status, the intended location, the route of administration… The identified risks (risks identified in clinical experience) and theoretical risks (risks observed in animal studies) include tumor formation, unwanted immune responses and the transmission of adventitious agents.
Many cancer scientists who work with stem cell treatment admitted that they would not be injecting stem cells into themselves since there are potentials of going rogue and turning cancerous from transplanted stem cells.
Customers should be careful with Stem cell treatment
Scientists warn patients against many clinics that provide unapproved stem cell treatments. Customers should be careful “if someone says they are involved in a research trial and asks you for money”, said David Parke – chief executive of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Up to now, the hidden risks in this kind of treatment are still high, not only in term of money but safety also. Reportedly, there are 3 cases going blind after applying the treatment from unregulated clinics in South Florida, US.
FDA – The Food and Drug Administration – officials say they are focusing their enforcement action on clinics offering “high-risk” procedures, such as injections of stem cells into the brain, eye and nervous system.
Transplanting and injecting stem cells into parts of human body and letting them repair the issues themselves are still credibly risky at the present. Patients should wait for scientists and customers, especially expert ones – to know more about stem cells and how they work.
FDA advises patients and customers to ask and listen to stem cell practitioners for further reliable information before taking any transplant therapy.
In short, stem cell treatment is truly a new opportunity for many patients as well as healthcare industry. However, because it affects directly human body’s basic units, scientists need more time to fully study and understand them before applying to disease treatments.
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