The medical world has been looking for the next big breakthrough in medicine. The last century was full of exciting innovations, from antibiotics to open-heart surgery, but now we’re running out of new ideas.
However, stem cells could be the answer doctors have been waiting for! Let’s find out why these miraculous cells are a potential game-changer and what they can do to save lives.
How Can We Consider Stem Cells to Be the Medical Innovation of the Century
Stem cell research is a promising new tool for curing the world’s most challenging diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, pulmonary fibrosis, and sometimes even cancer. With more resources and an ever-growing interest, scientists can now work on cures and therapies that provide outcomes that have been thought impossible not so long ago.
We have at least two reasons to state that regenerative medicine is developing and expanding:
- The stem cells therapy market is booming, and it’s only going to get bigger. The demand for these treatments from a stem cells clinic has grown 36% each year, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
- Venture capitalists and major corporations are pouring money into the sector.
Our bodies are programmed to repair themselves, but as we age, our stem cells decline, and it causes us to experience the physical signs of aging, such as wrinkles and grey hair. As such, therapies that can rejuvenate our stem cells could help us stay young and healthy for longer.
Both of the following capacities of stem cells provide the regenerative effect in different diseases:
- self-renewal: stem cells can be divided and create more stem cells;
- differentiate: stem cells can become specialized cells.
The potential uses of stem cells are endless. They can differentiate into any other type of cell in the body and promote tissue regeneration, as well as decrease inflammatory processes. Stem cells could be used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart diseases, chronic pain syndrome, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and many others.
Stem cells are already being used to treat some diseases. However, the number of patients receiving these treatments is still very small due to limitations in clinical trials and the cost of this type of treatment, which is still relatively high. If we can improve our ability to test stem cell therapies quickly and effectively, that market will explode.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are the body’s basic materials—they’re the element from which all other specialized cells are created. Interestingly, stem cells can be split into multiple daughter cells, which can become stem cells themselves or turn into cells that have a specific bodily function (neurons, cardiomyocytes, chondrocytes, and so on).
Back in 1981, scientists cracked the code on how to get stem cells from early mouse embryos. They’ve been able to use them for research ever since. This breakthrough allowed for more research into their potential uses and paved the way for stem cell therapies to become a reality.
Why Are Stem Cells Important?
The stem cells in your body are working hard to keep you alive. They create new blood cells and replace old cells in all the body tissues, helping support the vital organ systems. However, as you get older, your stem cells decline in number and function.
With stem cell therapy, you can replenish your supply of stem cells and thus turn back time. Cell-based products can be injected intravenously or directly into the affected area, which causes tissue repair and removal of inflammation locally or throughout the body. In turn, this leads to a decrease or disappearance of symptoms and an improvement in the patient’s condition.
Where Do Stem Cells Come From?
Stem cells can be found in many sources, including embryos and adult body tissue. At the moment of conception, our bodies are full of pluripotent stem cells (cells that can become any cell type). These primitive cells form all three layers of tissue during development: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.
Interestingly, scientists are using genetic “reprogramming” techniques to create stem cells from other types of cells. It could be a way to get around the ethical issues associated with embryo-based stem cells.
Adult stem cells can be found in tissues such as bone marrow, adipose tissue, and skin. They’re responsible for repairing and renewing the tissue in which they reside. Scientists are also working on ways to use these cells for medical treatments.
Types of Stem Cells
Here are the four stem cells types that are currently being researched for medical applications:
- embryonic stem cells;
- induced pluripotent stem cells;
- mesenchymal stem cells;
- tissue-specific stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are the most promising type of adult stem cell for regenerative medicine. They can be found in various body tissues, including bone marrow, adipose tissue, the placenta, and umbilical cord blood.
Stem Cells Are a Progressive Direction of Modern Medicine
Stem cells have the potential to revolutionize medicine and could be used in a variety of ways. They can repair damaged tissue, provide treatment for injuries or diseases, improve organ function, rejuvenate and even prolong life spans!
Stem cell therapies would enable doctors to repair damaged tissue without using invasive techniques like transplants or prosthetics (in lung fibrosis or arthritis, for example). They are especially valuable for tissue damage or loss cases, such as spinal cord injuries, heart disease, and diabetes.
In conclusion, stem cells could be the most important medical innovation of our time! They have a wide variety of potential uses and can treat many different conditions. While there are still plenty of questions to answer, stem cell research is definitely an exciting area that has made huge advancements over the last few decades.
In the meantime, thousands of patients have already received relief from their medical conditions due to stem cell therapy.