Development of Stem Cell therapy is progressing with leaps and bounces. But the concept of stem cell therapy is still abstruse to the common men. We know that you have many questions regarding this new form of therapy and often you don’t get the right concept. So you stay back with your questions unanswered. This is our chance to give you some answers and also welcome you, if you still have more queries.
What is stem cell?
Stem cell may be referred to as master cells which have the ability to give rise to any type of tissue. For example a stem cell if cultured in a particular media, it can give rise to any type of cell for example- heart cell, muscle cell, nerve cell etc. This is the biggest advantage that stem cells have. In case of any disease if you find that the existing cell or tissue is getting damaged, you can refer to stem cell therapy. If injected into your body, it will help to regenerate the lost cells. Also in many cases, genetically engineered cells, can be inserted into the body through the stem cells, with the corrected genetic information.
From where we can obtain the stem cells from?
There are several sources of stem cells such as embryonic stem cells (as the name suggests extracted from embryonic cells), adult stem cells (extracted from bone marrow, teeth, fat cells etc). Stem cell can also be obtained from cord blood, placenta or even fallopian tube as reported recently.
Autologous stem cells refers to stem cells obtained from one’s own body part. In these cases generally, bone marrow cells for example is taken from the long bones, is extracted and again, after culturing in separate media, they are injected at suitable location, for development of new tissue.
While allogeneic stem cells are obtained from human donors. It may be from an adult or in the form of cord blood cell obtained from a baby. But the main challenge in this regard, is suitable matching of genetic compostion of the host (patient) and the donor. Otherwise, which is very uncommon in case of autologous stem cell transplant, is the graft versus host reaction. This is a particular type of immunogenic reaction that can lead to rejection of the donated cells.
What is the need for injecting my bone marrow stem cell again into me when it is only producing the stem cell in my body?
Firstly bone marrow stem cells within the bone, produces the different types of blood cells. But not any other type of cells. Unless these cells are cultured in vitro, in suitable environment, these cells cannot grow into the desired cells.
How the stem cells know whee to go and act?
Stem cells are generally injected locally in order to get the maximum efficiency. But in case of some critical internal organs they are injected accompanied by some target carriers. It has been found that in case of injecting mesenchymal cells for producing cells in the brain, previously it was injected into the lungs. But the efficiency was as low as 5%. So it has been seen that injecting stem cells locally gives higher efficiency.
What are the diseases so far treated and found success through stem cells?
- Cardiovascular disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cancer of different types
- Cerebral Palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sickle cell anemia
- Crohn’s Disease
- Spinal cord injury
- Macular degeneration
- Fanconi anemia
- Muscular dystrophy
There are still more… check our blog and find out.
Who first found the stem cells?
In the year 1960, Joseph Altman and Gopal Das presented the scientific evidence of adult neurogenesis, ongoing stem cell activity in the brain; their reports contradicted Cajal’s “no new neurons” dogma and are largely ignored. Thereafter in 1963, McCulloch and Till illustrate the presence of self-renewing cells in mouse bone marrow.Later in the year 1981, Gail Martin coined the term Embryonic stem cell.
What is the ethical issue behind stem cell research?
Since stem cell was extracted from embryos, people questioned that whether the scientists are ethically correct in manipulating human lives. Issues raised against the Embryonic stem cell, as the politicians and the religious teachers marked it unethical. Although they allowed the practice of adult stem cell research since it did not attempt at deriving embryonic cells. Funding was stopped in ES cell research since 2001. Situation changed and people became aware that embryonic stem cells are much more effective than adult stem cells. Moreover when live animals were used in experiments, then why not the cells which need to go far way to become human, cannot be used. US President Obama revived the researches March, 2009.
Why embryonic stem cell research presently not as effective as adult stem cells?
This is simply because researches on ES cells lagged 8 years to adult stem cells. But if you see the promises of ES cells it is far too ahead in both efficiency and convenience to adult stem cells.
What are the recent challenges to the stem cell researchers?
Primarily, the researchers are aim at developing the ES cells into practical application and also develop the adult stem cells for going through few more clinical trials to solve the problems which are obstructing its pathway. Scientists are also trying to find a good carrier for induced Pluripotent Stem cells which are induced ordinary somatic cells with embryonic stem cell genes. These can be an apt substitue of ES cells, avoiding the controversies but achieving same efficiency.
These are a few answers to make you aware about the basic concepts about the therapy. All over the world treatments are mostly at clinical trial stage, although efforts are on to bring out greater efficiency. We await for more queries.