Are Stem Cell Therapies All Hype or They Have Something to Show for?
Regeneration is something that we clamor for in this day and age, especially as it pertains to our health. Even though regenerative medicine is still being studied today, the notion was actually determined by our forefathers.
The term was known as early as 330 BC. Aristotle discovered that a lizard who has lost its tail could regenerate it in a short span of time. Ever since that realization, a lot of scholars and researchers are looking for information and ways to help us get that regenerative benefit.
In this article, I will talk about stem cell therapies and whether or not they’re all hype or they actually have something to show for.
What Are Stem Cells?
For you to understand how they are used in therapy, you have to know what stem cells are first. Stem cells are unspecialized cells, which means that they do not have a specific purpose, yet.
They do have two unique capabilities, though, in that they can self-renew and turn into any cell in the body.
When stem cells divide, they produce one daughter cell and one progenitor cell. The former can divide into more stem cells and the latter is a state just right before the cell turns into another cell in the body.
A differentiated cell is a cell that has a defined purpose. For instance, muscle cells reside in your muscles and heart cells, well, reside in your heart. Stem cells that “differentiate” actually turn into cells that are needed by the body.
Based on their main origins, stem cells can either be categorized as human embryonic stem cells or somatic or adult stem cells.
Here are the characteristics of stem cells:
- Totipotency- Can turn into any cell type in the body
- Pluripotency- Can turn into any cell type in the body, with the exclusion of embryonic membranes
- Multipotency- May differentiate into one or more mature cells.
How Are Stem Cells Utilized in Therapy?
Stem cells that are used in therapy are derived from humans. They are either extracted from the person’s bone marrow or from their adipose (fat) tissue. After extraction, they will undergo certain processes before they are stored in the Master Cell Bank, where the bank will then ensure that the conditions are ideal for stem cells to prosper.
That being said, researchers are looking for ways to induce pluripotency in adult stem cells because, in their natural configuration, they are unable to differentiate into cells other than from the stem cells are derived from.
Current research is actually amazing since laboratory studies have continuously reported positive results. The real challenge now would be to translate laboratory experiments into real clinical trials with human subjects.
Even though there are many roadblocks, it is only a matter of time before we can finally make use of stem cells for therapy.