Stem cells are defined by the experts as a type of cells that can help the body in the repair, replacement and regeneration of different specialized cells and tissues by differentiating themselves in many types of other specialized cells. Likewise, these cells have the ability to produce growth factors and cytokines which travel to other surrounding tissues and boost the healing process.
This capability of stem cells therapy to repair human tissues and organs make them an innovative option for treating a lot of cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons, nerve, fat, muscle, neurons and even blood vessels conditions. Stem cell therapy is also being studied to treat more complex diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus (especially type 1), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), multiple sclerosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), spinal cord injuries, ear and eye conditions and HIV/AIDS.
There are different types of stem cells. The first stem cells that humans have in the body (during the intrauterine life) are pluripotent cells, while non-embryonic adult mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent. The pluripotent fetal cells have a greater capacity for differentiation than multipotent adult cells, which means that the lasts are less versatile when it comes to differentiating themselves in other cell types. This is the main reason why blood cells from the umbilical cord are widely used in the stem cell therapy.
How is a Stem Cell Therapy performed?
The stem cell therapy has a very precise procedure that must always be done by a specialist. The first step consists in obtaining the stem cells from the own patient (bone marrow, fat tissue or peripheral blood) or a newborn (in the case of stem cells from cord blood) under surgically sterile conditions and local anesthesia (if needed). This step usually takes less than 20 minutes to be completed.
After that, the sample with millions of stem cells is processed in the laboratory to separate the stem cells from other particles or cells that are not necessary. Once the sample of stem cells have been purified and processed, it is injected into the patient’s blood or directly in the specific area that needs to be treated (such as joints, spinal space or other tissues).
It is important to say that some steps of the stem cell therapy can vary according to the area from where the stem cells will be extracted and used.
In which medical areas can the power of Stem Cell Therapy be used?
Nowadays, the stem cells therapy is widely used in the orthopedic branch. This can be explained by the fact that the stem cells have the capability to repair or replace the bone, tendons and ligaments cells. Furthermore, the cytokines that they help to release can reduce the surrounding tissues inflammation.
Stem cells therapy is also successful in this area because it represents a minimally invasive and low-risk option for treating common conditions like arthritis/osteoarthritis, spine disease, sports-related injuries and other problems with shoulders, elbows, hands/wrists, hips, knees or ankles.
Likewise, many orthopedic conditions are caused by inflammatory, autoimmune, or degenerative processes, which can be treated with stem cell therapy as it was stated earlier.
Another branch in which stem cell therapy is widely used is neurology. Although most of these uses are still being investigated, the experts have used this therapy to treat multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, among others, with pretty satisfactory results.
Stem cell therapy is a good option for these conditions because these cells have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, so they can reach different areas of the nervous system that have been affected by injuries or degenerative diseases.
Certain cardiac and pulmonary diseases can also be treated with stem cell therapy. In fact, the researchers have found that it can be a good treatment option for heart attacks, ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarctions, congestive heart failure, pulmonary fibrosis and COPD.
This is very important because at least 1 in every 3 deaths in the United States of America are due to cardiovascular diseases. The promising fact about stem cell therapy in this branch is that it can help to regenerate or replace the cells lost in cardiac ischemia and even trigger the formation of new coronary artery branches by releasing substances like the angiogenesis factor.
The autoimmune diseases can also be successfully treated with stem cell therapy. This is because they can help to replace the defective cells of the immune system, so they do not react against the patient’s own tissues.
Among the autoimmune diseases that have been treated with stem cells therapy, lupus, Crohn’s disease, CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy), scleroderma, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, myasthenia neuropathy and ulcerative colitis, can be included.
Finally, there are certain urogenital and skin conditions that have been successfully treated with stem cell therapy. It is especially recommended for diseases which involve atrophy and inflammation, such as Intersticial Cystitis (IC) and Lichen Sclerosis.
Likewise, the erectile dysfunction seems to be a condition of multifactorial causes that can be properly treated with stem cell therapy. The experts say that it can be due to the fact that stem cells may stimulate the growth of the smooth muscle lining of vessels, which helps to improve the endothelial function by repairing or replacing the damaged cells, which also boosts the blood flow to the penile’s erectile tissues.
Remember that only a qualified doctor can determine if a person can benefit from stem cell therapy.