How is a Stem Cell Transplant Carried Out? - GO.CARE Blog
How is a Stem Cell Transplant Carried Out?
Author: Phạm Đăng Khoa
Review Date: August 16, 2019 | Last Modified: August 27, 2019
How is a Stem Cell Transplant Carried Out?

Stem cell therapy is a new type of medical treatment that promises great potential. According to researchers, this treatment may help restore/ replace body cells that have been damaged by diseases or injuries. Hence, it may be able to aid in curing various chronic health conditions.

In this article, we will have a closer look at how a stem cell transplant is carried out.

Get to know about Stem cells

Stem cells

Cells are, to a certain extent, the human body’s building blocks. At the first moment of life, from just an embryo, they divide over and over again to create the body. During our lives, they replenish cells in our blood, bone, skin, and organs to keep us alive and functioning.

Most of our body cells are specialized to serve certain functions. For example, red blood cells play the role of transmitting oxygen around the body. Stem cells, on the other hand, are basic cells that have not yet developed any special functions. Over time, these cells will undergo a process known as differentiation. A

Stem cells provide a wide range of beneficial therapeutic benefits for your body:

  • Immune Modulation. It is the ability to regulate immune responses and regulate inflammation.
  • Stimulatory Secretions. They produce a range of various stimulatory secretions that aid in repairing and regenerating the body.
  • Repopulation. Newly introduced young cells can repopulate our cell pools.

A stem cell transplant is a procedure in which healthy stem cells are injected into a patient’s body to replace their own damaged cells. These stem cells may be collected from the patient’s own body, from a donor, or a newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby.

Types of Stem cell transplant

Overall, there are 2 main types of stem cell transplant:

Autologous transplant

Autologous transplant is a process that utilizes the patient’s own body cells. In this case, stem cells can be harvested from either the bone marrow or peripheral blood. After that, these cells will be processed and cryopreserved before being transplanted back into the patient’s body.

Autologous transplants are generally safer than allogeneic transplants. The reason is that stem cells are collected from the patient’s body; hence they run little risk of rejection or graft versus host disease (GVHD). However, as the cells need to be processed in advance, the whole treatment duration may take up from weeks to nearly a month. That means, patients usually have to travel twice if they choose to perform an autologous transplant.

Allogeneic stem cell transplant.

Unlike autologous transplants, allogeneic stem cell transplants utilize stem cells from the body of another person (a donor). This process is very complicated, as the doctors must ensure that the patient’s body does not reject the transplanted cells.

For allogeneic transplants, doctors often utilize stem cells from family members. If there are no suitable donors, they may resort to taking blood stem cells from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord.

Which type of stem cell transplant will be chosen depends on the age and health of the patient, the type and severity of the disease, and the results of the doctor’s examination. Therefore, be sure to consult with your doctor first.

Who are eligible for a Stem cell transplant?

Stem cells come with the ability to duplicate themselves and transform into various functional cells. As a result, scientists believe that they present an effective solution to various diseases and health conditions.

According to a number of research results, stem cell transplants may be performed for patients who suffer diseases such as:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);
  • Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS);
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS);
  • Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Diabetes;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • Heart disease;
  • Stroke;
  • Metabolic diseases;
  • Autoimmune diseases;
  • Liver diseases;
  • Kidney diseases;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Allergies;
  • Neurological disorders;

Sources of stem cells

Stem cells may be taken from sources such as bone marrow, blood flow, and the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. Which source to choose depends on various factors.

Bone marrow

Bone marrow is a soft fatty substance in the cavities of bones, in which blood cells are produced. The best place to harvest stem cells is in the hip and pelvic bones. Before being harvested, the doctors will provide general anesthesia to the donor or patient. This is especially true in the case of autologous stem cell transplant.

After that, a needle is inserted behind the hip bone, then some bone marrow will be removed. In order to obtain enough stem cells, the doctor will make a lot of taking holes in the bone. Harvested bone marrow will go through a screening process to separate stem cells from bone fragments and other body tissues. Finally, stem cells taken will be cryopreserved (i.e: frozen) for later use.

Blood flow

Stem cells that circulate in the bloodstream can be used for stem cell transplants. The doctor will draw blood from a patient or donor. After that, a screening process is performed to separate stem cells from other blood cells. For now, this is the most common method of stem cell collection.

Umbilical cord blood

After the birth of a baby, his/ her placenta and umbilical cord are usually thrown away. However, one interesting fact that most people are not aware of is that these things provide a great source of stem cells.

To extract these cells, the medical team can utilize blood from the umbilical cord that has been cut off. Existing blood will be cryopreserved for later use. This method often an option if there are no suitable donors.

What is done before a Stem cell transplant?

Perform an inspection

The doctor will make sure your body is healthy enough to carry out the transplant procedure. Several types of tests need to be done before doing a stem cell transplant, including:

  • Blood test. This is done to check the patient’s liver and kidney condition and ensure that the patient does not get infectious diseases.
  • Chest radiograph. This examination aims to determine the symptoms of diseases that attack the lungs.
  • Electrocardiography (ECG). The ECG is carried out to assess how good your heart rate is and rhythm.
  • Echocardiography. Echocardiography aims to examine the condition of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. CT scan is done to check how well the condition of the patient’s organs.

After completing the necessary tests, the doctor will have a discussion with the patient.

Insert the catheter hose

If the doctor decides that you are fit for a stem cell transplant, the next step is to insert a catheter into the neck or chest. The catheter will stay there during the transplant process.

How is a Stem cell transplant carried out?

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant can be performed in two different methods.

  • The first way is through the arm, like a blood donation procedure. After that, the blood is circulated using a blood-removing machine to select the cells needed and return the remaining blood to the donor. This process requires the donor to receive an injection that increases the number of blood stem cells circulating in the blood for several days before drawing blood.
  • The second method is the bone marrow culture. After the patient is given anesthesia, the doctors will collect bone marrow from the donor using a needle inserted through the skin into the posterior area of ​​the hip bone. Some of the risks associated with bone marrow culture include infection, bleeding, and other risks from general anesthesia. After breeding the bone marrow, your back will feel achy. However, the pain is very mild and will wear off after some days.

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Stem cells: What they are and what they do. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/in-depth/stem-cells/art-20048117. Accessed on June 25, 2019.

Stem Cell Basics III. https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/3.htm. Accessed on June 25, 2019.

What are stem cells, and what do they do?. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323343.php. Accessed on June 25, 2019.

Stem cell transplantation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071465/. Accessed on June 25, 2019.

What is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318091.php. Accessed on June 25, 2019.

Understanding the Stem Cell Transplantation Process. https://www.lymphoma.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/STEM_CELL_TRANSPLANTATION_BOOKLET-1.pdf. Accessed June 25, 2019.

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