Over one million stem cell transplants have been performed throughout the world. From osteoarthritis patients to people suffering from a deadly form of blood cancer known as leukemia, stem cells save lives.
Researchers have been aware of stem cells for nearly twenty years, but there is still much to learn. The cells are unlike any other and hold many medical benefits. It’s just a matter of determining how to best harness their healing abilities.
Let’s rewind. What are stem cells, and what types of diseases can an adult stem cell treat? Continue reading to find out.
What Are Stem Cells?
First things first, stem cells are natural cells with specialized functions. Stem cells divide themselves to form more cells, known as daughter cells. The daughter cells can become new stem cells or specialized cells with a specific purpose.
The specialized cells come in the form of brain cells, blood cells, and bone cells that work to maintain a healthy human body. To treat patients with severe medical conditions, researchers use specialized stem cells to repair precise damages in the patient’s body.
What Can an Adult Stem Cell Do?
Stem cell therapy, or regenerative medicine, is a new way to treat painful and life-threatening medical conditions. Whether it’s increasing bone strength, fighting off cancer, or regrowing damaged skin, stem cell therapy allows patients to live a healthier life.
Boost Bone Strength
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are bone marrow cells. They aid in bone and cartilage repair as well as produce fat cells. Researchers use MSCs to treat skeletal injuries and osteoarthritis.
MSCs contain anti-inflammatory factors to relieve pain and reduce swelling in bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Doctors may inject stem cells into a joint to alleviate pain and lower inflammation. The stem cells then work to rebuild the damaged area.
Improve Blood Health and Fight off Cancer
Adult stem cell transplants have been successful in cancer treatments. The approach is used for blood and lymphatic system cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Stem cell transplants alleviate cancer from the body or help make the body stronger for chemotherapy.
Stem cell transplants use hematopoietic stem cells. These are young cells that live in the bone marrow. As the cells age, they can develop into three types of blood cells:
- Red blood cells (for oxygen)
- White blood cells (for fighting off diseases)
- Platelets (for blood clotting)
Stem cell transplants replace cells that have been affected by cancer. To receive a transplant, the patient is matched with an eligible stem cell donor. Once the best match is found, new stem cells are transplanted into the patient’s body to overtake the cancerous cells.
Since the 1980s, medical professionals have been using adult skin stem cells to regrow skin. The process requires doctors to transplant skin grafts to replace missing skin on the patient’s body. The new skin cannot grow hair, sweat, and lacks oil glands, but it looks similar to normal human skin.
Skin replacement through stem cells is primarily reserved for patients suffering from third-degree burns who have permanently lost parts of their skin.
Stem cells may also be used to treat people with junctional epidermolysis bullosa. JEB causes extremely fragile skin that can be severely wounded by a simple scratch. In 2017, European researchers treated a seven-year-old boy suffering from JEB by using stem cells to grow replacement skin.
Learn More About Stem Cell Therapy Benefits
An adult stem cell holds immense potential for the medical community. From blood disorders to repairing our body’s largest organ, stem cell therapy is a promising medical treatment that researchers are excited about.
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