However, today, most stem cell therapy is done using adult stem cells, or stem cells that are harvested from a patient’s own fat, blood marrow and other tissues, eliminating the source of controversy. Stem cells are the developmental building block of other cells. They self-renew, which means that they can duplicate themselves, but they can also develop into other more specialized cell types.
Adult stem cells are multipotent, which means that they can generate a variety of cell types in specific tissues and organs. Researchers have been making remarkable progress with stem cell therapy, and in recent months, stem cell therapy in the news has focused on some of the incredible advances researchers are making.
One such therapy was described at the “Annual Meeting for International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science.” Researchers presented a study on treating degenerative disc disease with stem cells. Degenerative disc disease is a common age-related issue that occurs when the spinal discs degenerate. This can lead to numbness, weakness and radiating pain. Stem cells can be harvested through fat cells during a local tumescent liposuction procedure and then delivered directly into damaged discs. According to the study, patients who had undergone this procedure experienced statistically significant improvements in pain, flexibility and overall results.
Acceptance of stem cell therapy is also growing for joint issues. An FDA-approved study using stem cells to treat rotator cuff injuries recently began with just 18 participants and will expand to a total of 100 in the next few months. Previously, treatments for such injuries included rest, pain medication, steroid injections and surgery.
Therapies such as these offer a minimally invasive alternative using a patient’s own tissues. The adipose stem cells promote healing inside the joint without requiring invasive joint surgery. Instead, a small amount of fat is harvested from the body’s natural reserves and is purified. It is then injected directly into the joint where it can help ease symptoms and promote healing, beginning as soon as three weeks after the procedure.
Joint health alternatives are not the only possible advancements in stem cell therapy. Scientists are modifying stem cellsand creating so-called “designer cells” that mimic T-cells. T-cells target and destroy viruses in the body, but they miss cancer cells, allowing them to grow unchecked. With these modified designer stem cells, researchers are hoping to create a type of killer T-cells that can penetrate the target cell’s membrane, bind to its target structures and destroy it from the inside. Unlike conventional cancer treatments, this stem cell-based therapy targets only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. Although this research is still in its infancy, it holds great promise.
More research is needed to continue these advancements in stem cell therapy, but the future looks bright. As acceptance of stem cell therapy expands, more people are able to reap the benefits and the possibilities of this incredible treatment option.
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