Various ideas and expectation regarding stem cells therapy have been circling in the scientific world for decades, with a lot of hoping and a lot of talking about it. Patients have an even greater expectation, especially those people whose lives depend upon some breakthrough medical approaches that would be capable of treating irreversibly damaged or injured tissues.
What do stem cells do?
Stem cells are fundamental cells out of which every other specifically differentiated cell in our body has originated. Roughly divided, there are two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and tissue-related stem cells. The first type is found within pre-implanted embryo form (blastocyst) and has the greatest potential to generate literally any type of defined cells. The second type includes adult stem cells that are tissue-related and located in specific organs till the rest of the life. Their regenerative potential is limited to those specific tissues.
Stem cells are omnipotent, multipotent or sometimes unipotent, but with the ability to generate required traits and transform themselves into cells of the specific tissue with all its morphological and functional characteristics. This means that stem cells represent basic natural material for generation new part of our body. Practical aspects include their utilization in regenerative processes, inducing reparation of damaged tissues and the creation of new, healthy tissue parts to replace the flawed ones.
Strategies behind stem cells
Stem cells transplant is currently the only officially approved medical strategy, although scientists are intensively developing mechanisms to replace damaged tissue with tissue generated out of stem cells instead of inserting the mere cells along with the damaged tissue. Another utilized method is instructing stem cells to induce regenerative processes within the damaged or ill cells of the targeted tissue. Also, numerous labs are investigating details of differentiation processes to determine the exact way stem cells transform into specific tissues. This could lead to artificial creating brand-new organs out of our personal, natural cells.
Officially treatable diseases with stem cells
The most explored, tested and proved stem cell treatment includes blood stem cells transplant used for curing various hematological conditions. Transplantation of bone marrow carries pluripotent blood stem cells into the body and triggers them to start production of healthy and properly functioning blood and immunology cells. This is used to fight various types of leukemia, inborn genetic blood disorder, such as Fanconi anemia, as well as to re-populate bone marrow and bloodstream after some treatments that have damaged it. A similar method is used to regenerate damaged skin areas among patients with burns, scars or skin tumors. Chemically or mechanically damaged superficial layer of the eyes (cornea) is also treatable with stem cells.
Potentially treatable diseases with stem cells
Three main medical fields are exploring potential utilization of stem cells to help their patients. Neurologists are trying to fight neurodegenerative conditions, strokes, and dementia, while endocrinologists hope that stem cells could replace insufficient pancreatic tissue to cure diabetes. Finally, if scientist manages to tech stem cells to trigger regenerative processes, myocardial infarction or any other organ injury could be repaired this way.