Types of Stem Cells in Scottsdale, AZ
Embryonic stem cells possess unlimited potential that can be harnessed to create specialized cells in the body, which offers tremendous hope in the field of disease research and advanced therapies. Human embryonic stem cells were first grown in a lab in 1998. Human embryonic stem cells suitable for use in patients have recently been produced.
Tissue Stem Cells
Many bodily tissues are both maintained and repaired throughout the course of a person’s lifetime by stem cells. The cells used by the body in this manner differ greatly from embryonic stem cells.
Stem cell therapy has been in regular use for the past four decades. Bone marrow transplants are commonplace today. The cells can replace the damaged blood system of a patient for a lifetime because of the blood stem cell properties. Thousands of patients undergo this procedure each year, but complications do occur. Sometimes, the donor’s immune system cells attack and damage the tissues of the patient. Also, a risk of infection during treatment exists since the chemotherapy before transplant kills both bone marrow cells and cancer cells.
Skin stem cells have been used in therapies for the past three decades to generate new sheets of skin in the lab for use in patients who have been severely burned. The technique is usually performed in select facilities for patients with third-degree burns over much of their bodies. The new skin has no hair follicles, sebaceous (oil) glands, or sweat glands, so further research is needed to address the imperfections of the technique.
Cord Blood Stem Cells
After birth, babies are able to donate cord blood stem cells for harvesting. These cells are frozen and preserved in cell banks to be used in treating young children who have blood cancers, such as leukemia, and some inherited blood disorders, such as Fanconi anaemia. Adult treatments have proven more challenging, but adults have also been treated successfully using double cord transplants.
Cord blood remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. The blood is not difficult to collect, and there is no risk to either the baby or mother. Cord blood contains rare stem cells that are normally only found in bone marrow. The cells are unique because they can change into any other type of cell in the body, making these stem cells extremely useful for repairing damaged tissues.
Some reports have suggested that cord blood may contain other types of stem cells that can produce cells other than blood cells, such as nerve cells. The findings remain controversial and are not widely accepted among scientists.
The consensus view is that successful treatment of adults is limited to the number of cells that can be harvested from a single umbilical cord, but the response of the immune system also appears to play a role. One advantage that cord blood transplants seems to have over traditional bone marrow transplants is that patients are less likely to experience rejection by the immune system or other negative reactions, such as Graft versus Host Disease. However, to be successful, the cord blood has to be matched to the patient.
Restrictions exist as to the types of diseases that may be treated with stem cells. For example, cord blood stem cells are only used for treating blood diseases, even though certain studies suggest that cord blood may actually have stem cells that can be used to make other types of specialized cells. However, to date, no such research has been widely reproduced or confirmed. Additionally, therapies have not been devised to use blood stem cells from adult bone marrow or cord blood to treat non-blood related conditions.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Mesenchymal stem cells are located within bone marrow. The cells are responsible for repairing cartilage and bones as well as some production of fat cells. Current research suggests these cells may differentiate into other cell types, yet research is inadequate to concretely support the theory. Mesenchymal stem cells, like other cells, are multipotent, not pluripotent, meaning they cannot produce every type of cell found in the body. Unconfirmed statements have been made that these cells can be harvested from a large number of tissues besides bone marrow. The debate continues among the scientific community as to the precise nature of cells harvested from other tissues.
Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatments remain unproven. Some current studies are looking into the safety and effectiveness of MSC treatments used to repair bone or cartilage. Other studies are investigating if the cells can repair damage to blood vessels caused by heart attacks or conditions such as critical limb ischaemia, but the effectiveness of the treatments is unknown. MSCs do not produce blood vessel cells in isolation but may help other cells repair damage. Yet evidence shows that MSCs help support blood stem cells.
Some scientists report that MSCs can essentially “hide” from immune system cells, thereby reducing the chances of rejection when MSCs are harvested from one individual for transplant within another person. Other study results do not support such statements. Suggestions have also been made that MSCs may show promise in affecting immune system responses to lower inflammation levels and treat the rejection of transplants or auto-immune conditions. These suggestions have also been unproven as of today, although research is ongoing.
Eye Stem Cells
Research has shown that tissue stem cells harvested from the part of the eye known as the limbus can treat cornea damage. When the cornea is severely damaged by some type of trauma, limbal stem cells can be harvested from that person, replicated in the lab, and transplanted back into the person’s injured eye to restore their sight. The treatment only helps patients who have some remaining healthy limbal stem cells. Early-stage trials have found the treatment to be safe and effective. Studies with larger numbers of subjects are needed before this type of therapy is approved for widespread use.
Click here to view an article by The Baltimore Sun on a women’s blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
A recent advancement in stem cell research is founded upon the discovery that some cells are able to be “reprogrammed” into cells that mimic the behavior of embryonic stem cells. The cells are known as Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSCs). The development of IPSCs shows great promise in drug development and disease research. Brain cells have even been generated from IPSCs in the lab using skin from patients suffering from neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or related to Down’s syndrome. The lab-created cells display signs of the patients’ diseases. The discovery affords researchers the opportunity to study how a disease progresses inside a petri dish so research and testing can be conducted in the search for new drugs. Studies such as these reveal the wide variety of disease research being conducted worldwide using IPSCs.
The discovery of IPSCs offers hope that a patient’s own skin could produce cells to treat their disease, which would avoid the risk of rejection. However, IPSC use in such therapies is currently only based on theory. The technology is still being developed, and the process of reprogramming is poorly understood. New methods must be devised to safely produce IPSCs. Modern methods employ genetic modifications that can cause the development of tumors, for example. The cells must also be found to reliably differentiate into the types of specialized cells required for use in patients.