In recent years, regenerative medicine has surged up as an alternative to traditional medical treatment. The field focuses on increasing the pace at which the body recovers itself to a clinically relevant timescale. This is achievable via the use of human cells, especially stem cells.
According to researchers, stem cell therapy has the potential to aid in curing various chronic diseases. Due to their various unique features, stem cells can be used to replace and repair damaged cells, hence providing a reliable answer to many previously incurable conditions.
What are stem cells?
Most body cells come with a specific function. Stem cells, on the other hand, do not have any specialized role yet. What makes them unique, though, is their ability to replicate themselves and differentiate. Under the right circumstances, these cells will develop into different functional cells (e.g: blood cells, bone cells, heart muscle cells).
Stem cells can be divided into several types, namely adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).
- Embryonic stem cells originate from embryos. These cells are very valuable due to their potential to develop into whatever body cells. However, the use of embryonic stem cells is currently very limited, as it causes major controversies about human right violation.
- Adult stem cells are stem cells extracted by body tissues. Most treatment these days utilize these cells, as they do not cause ethical issues like embryonic stem cells.
- Finally, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are those that share similar characteristics with embryonic stem cells. These cells are produced by scientists using skin cells and other body tissue cells.
What are Stem cells used for?
Due to their unique ability to differentiate (i.e: transform into various functional cells), stem cells can act to regenerate damaged cells due to injuries and illnesses. As a result, they provide a great boost to the body’s overall health, as well as aid in treating various health conditions.
Right now, stem cells have 2 main uses:
- Anti-aging. By repairing and replacing old and dead body cells, these cells can create an improvement in your well-being. In addition, they may also provide a solution to problems such as age spots, wrinkles, and fine lines.
- Medical treatment. Due to their regeneration mechanism, stem cells can be used to cure different health conditions.
You may be interested in: How Stem cells aid in Anti-aging treatment?
What diseases can Stem cells cure?
Stem cell therapy has the potential to aid in curing a wide range of diseases. Theoretically, there’s no limit to the number of diseases that stem cell research can treat. As more studies are conducted, it’s likely that scientists will find new uses of these miraculous cells.
Below are some of the most common conditions that are currently treated using stem cell therapy:
1. Heart disease
These days, heart disease is among the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 17 million people die from heart disease every year.
Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood properly. This results in slower blood circulation and increased pressure in the heart, hence reducing the intake of oxygen and nutrients.
Due to their amazing differentiation ability, pluripotent stem cells can be transplanted into the patient’s body to form new cardiac muscle cells. This in return provides a way to repair damaged heart tissue. There are various sources of stem cells, one of which is the bone marrow.
Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood sugar. Without proper treatment, the disease can lead to high blood sugar levels, which in turn increase the risk of dangerous complications like stroke and heart disease.
Until now, there has been no treatment that can cure the condition completely. The focus of most diabetes treatment these days is to control the disease’s symptoms and progress. However, one problem of the traditional approach is the requirement of frequent insulin injection, which can be resolved with stem cell therapy. According to researchers, stem cells can act to form new beta-cells and regulate the immune system, which is essential to combat diabetes.
3. Neurological disorders
The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. A malfunction in the nervous system may impact your ability to move, speak, swallow, breath and learn new things. In addition, it will also impact your memory and senses.
As of now, more than 600 neurological diseases have been found. Some of the most dangerous ones include ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), PLS (primary lateral sclerosis), and MS (multiple sclerosis). Previously, there are no cures for such diseases. However, the emergence of stem cell therapy has brought new hope for patients. Due to their therapeutic potential, stem cells can aid in restoring neurological functions and protecting the nervous system from further degeneration.
4. Degenerative diseases
Recent advances in stem cell research have provided patients with an opportunity to cure degenerative diseases. The reason lies in the self-renewing and regenerative nature of stem cells. For example, in the case of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, stem cells can be used to restore dying brain tissue, hence improving the patient’s cognitive function.
Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammatory joints. Among the various types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most popular. OA is responsible for the breakdown of joint cartilage in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.
To aid in curing arthritis, stem cells can be transplanted into the patient’s body to replace damaged cells, hence reducing pain and improving the range of motion.
6. Developmental disorders
Patients with developmental disorders generally suffer from severe physical or mental disability. As a result, they experience excruciatingly substantial limitations to their ability to perform major life activities. There are different types of developmental disorders, some of which include Cerebral palsy (CP) and Autism.
7. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Macular degeneration is a disease that can be treated with stem cells. In developed countries, the condition is one of the leading causes of vision loss. Initially, people with AMD may notice a blurring in their central vision while doing things such as reading. As the disease progresses, blind spots will typically form within the central visual field.
To treat AMD, researchers may utilize stem cells to repair retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) tissue in the eye.
8. Spinal cord injury
Stem cells are believed to provide a reliable method to treat spinal cord injuries. In early 2019, stem cell therapy was approved by the Japanese government as a reliable treatment for spinal cord injuries.
9. Other diseases that stem cells can cure
The above-mentioned conditions are just some of the most common diseases that stem cells can aid treating. Below is a detailed, yet non-exhaustive list of diseases that are eligible for stem cell therapy. However, the effectiveness of stem cell-based treatment varies between patients, so direct contact with qualified doctors is essential to properly assess your success rate.
- Cartilage repair;
- Cerebral Hemorrhage (sequela);
- Crohn’s disease;
- Diabetic Retinopathy;
- Liver cirrhosis;
- Lower Limb Ischemia;
- Traumatic Brain Injury.
As of now, the use of stem cells in medical treatment is still limited. However, up-to-date research has proven the amazing potential of stem cells in treating various chronic diseases. With more official studies, it is likely that scientists will uncover many more potential applications of regenerative medicine.
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