Youâ€™ve heard about stem cells. Perhaps youâ€™ve even seen a segment about them on the nightly news. But is stem cell therapy a legitimate form of medicine? And could it help you find relief, healing, or protection from disease?
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The Lowdown on Stem Cell Therapy
â€œStem cells are the body’s raw materials – cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells,â€ Mayo Clinic explains.
Daughter cells either become new stem cells through the process of self-renewal, or they evolve into specialized cells through differentiation. These specialized cells serve a specific purpose, such as brain cells, blood cells, heart muscles, or bones. No other cells in the entire body have the ability to generate new cells.
The question of where stem cells originate is something researchers have been looking at for years. Theyâ€™ve decided there are several sources, including:
- Embryonic stem cells come from embryos that are just three to five days old. These are known as â€œpluripotentâ€ stem cells and can divide into more stem cells or become any other cell type in the body.
- Adult stem cells are found in most adult tissues, such as fat or bone marrow. While theyâ€™re more limited in their ability to create different cells, theyâ€™re precious and have been shown to create bone or heart muscle.
- Perinatal stem cells are found in amniotic fluid and have the ability to change into specialized cells. More research is needed to understand the potential of these stem cells.
Stem cells offer huge potential for understanding the human body and offering advanced treatment options for acute injuries, chronic illnesses, and deadly diseases. However, weâ€™re still very much in the research and discovery phase of this science, which means we donâ€™t know as much as we will in three, five, or ten years.
The Potential for Stem Cell Therapy
From the outside looking in, itâ€™s exciting to postulate on exactly what the potential for stem cell therapy is. Here are a few areas worth keeping an eye on:
1. Chronic Conditions and Health Issues
â€œStem cell therapies may help address pain and related symptoms associated with joint pain including knee, back and hip pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders, orthopedic diseases, urological disorders, nerve conditions, and more,â€ Dr. David Mayer, Medical Director of National Stem Cell Centers, explains. There is also anecdotal evidence of improvement in ED and hair loss conditions.
If stem cell therapy sounds like a magic elixir for better health, thatâ€™s because it could be. Itâ€™sÂ one of the most promising discoveries over the last couple of centuries and could hold the key to many chronic conditions and health issues people have suffered for decades.
2. Growth of New Tissues
Several studies have shown a possible connection between stem cell treatments and new skin tissue growth and increased collagen production.
â€œOne of the ways stem cells help facilitate wound healing is by increasing collagen concentrations in the skin, which shrinks as it matures and thereby strengthens and tightens the damaged area,â€ Dr. Josh Axe explains. â€œThis same mechanism also applies to treat connective tissue injuries related to collagen/cartilage loss, such as those caused by osteoarthritis or overuses that affect ligaments or tendons.â€
3. Therapeutic Cloning
Also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, therapeutic cloning is a technique used to create stem cells independent of the traditional method of fertilizing eggs. The cellâ€™s nucleus, which contains the genetic material, is removed from the unfertilized egg. The donor nucleus is then injected inside to replace the removed nucleus. The egg divides naturally and then forms a blastocyst, which creates a line of stem cells that are identical to the donorâ€™s stem cells.
As Mayo Clinic points out, â€œSome researchers believe that stem cells derived from therapeutic cloning may offer benefits over those from fertilized eggs because cloned cells are less likely toÂ be rejected once transplanted back into the donor and may allow researchers to see exactly how a disease develops.â€
The Future of Medicine
Nobody knows what the future of medicine holds, but stem cell therapy will have a significant role in the solution of various treatments. The more we learn about potential applications, the greater the excitement becomes.