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An Overview of the Stem Cell Therapy

potentials of stem cell therapy
neural stem cells

Do you know how stem cell therapy (SCT) is different from conventional therapies?

If you don't, then let me ask you another question: "Can you tell how conventional treatments help treat a disease or condition?"

Well, if you really don't have any understanding over how conservative treatments work, I believe the answer could be shocking for you. The truth is almost all chronic conditions have no cure. Except antibiotics, hormonal drugs, and chemotherapeutic agents, most standard pharmacological treatments just focus on alleviating symptoms associated with the condition and improving overall health-related quality of life, so that the immune system can do the rest. However, this is where SCT is different from other therapies.

What is Stem Cell Therapy, and How Does It Work?

SCT, also called regenerative medicine, uses stem cells, unspecialized biological cells that can develop into different cell types, or their derivatives to restore injured or dysfunctional tissue and organs in the body that are impaired due to age, disease, and genetic defects. Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is the most familiar form of SCT, but some other therapies are also in use.

Stem cells are usually isolated from a tissue sample obtained from an individual. These cells are then grown and manipulated in a laboratory to develop them into specific types of cells, such as blood cells, nerve cells, or heart muscle cells. When these cells become specialized cells, they are then implanted into the individual. For example, if that individual has a heart disease, the healthy specialized heart cells could be injected directly into the heart muscle. The transplanted cells could then contribute to regenerate cardiac tissue and repair injured area.

potentials of stem cells

Why Stem Cell Research is a Promising Field of Science?

Regenerative medicine is an emerging branch of medicine, and its research offers great promise for understanding basic mechanisms of how human cells develop and differentiate. As you know most of the serious medical conditions are because of underlying problems that occur within the body. Stem cell research promises a better understanding of the cell development process. Researchers believe this can allow us to find the root causes of those problems and possibly correct the errors.

Stem cells can self-renew and produce new stem cells. They have the potential to go to the injured areas and regenerate new cells and tissues by performing a repair and a restoration process. Scientist believe this regenerative process of stem cells can be used to treat a myriad of diseases conditions, and disabilities.

Already, many studies have demonstrated that SCT has the potential for providing cures for a wide range of problems, including diabetes, spinal cord injury, myocardial infarction, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and even targeting tumors. However, further research is underway to develop effective stem cell therapies that can be used in treating a wide variety of conditions, so it will likely take several more years to get the expected outcomes.

What Are the Cons?

Like any other therapies, SCT also has its own pros and cons. Some of the cons include:
  • Evidences to support the effectiveness of SCT are still limited, and yet, side effects are also unknown. 
  • Currently, FDA has approved only a few stem cells therapies, and most of therapies available in the market are unapproved, so there is a strong chance that you'll just waste a great amount.
  • Research is underway and scientists are still looking for suitable methods to establish an effective therapy.
Moreover, there has been much debate surrounding stem cell research and its therapy over the last several years. Many of you may have a general understanding of the controversy, but you need to know that stem cell therapies aren't new. For more than 30 years, doctors have been performing BMT. And, not all stem cell research are involved in ethical and political controversies.

The ethical controversy was ensued when embryonic stem cells research involved the creation, usage, and destruction of blastocytes (human embryos) in 1998. However, in 2006, researchers identified ways to stimulate an adult's own cells to act like embryonic stem cells. With the availability of this alternative method, the debate over stem cell research has become increasingly irrelevant.

Image sources:
Joseph Elsbernd, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
Mikael Häggström, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.