The promising future of stem cells

Stem cells and the various treatments that are carried out using stem cells are one of the innovations that currently guide the path of technological medicine.

These cells have special characteristics that permit them to give rise to different types of other cells, they can self-renew and divide indefinitely. It is as if they were made from clay that can be moulded and transformed into other types of cells that may be needed.

In summary, stem cells have unique properties that allow our body to repair, regenerate and replace damaged cells, including organs, forming a repair system for our body by continuously replacing other cells.

With this capability, we can understand their potential applicability and how important they can become when used for medical treatment purposes.

Given that they are able to regenerate, it is easy to begin thinking on ways of regenerating damaged organs, treating chronic and degenerative diseases, especially since there are currently few therapeutic options for this type of problem.

In terms of scientific credibility, stem cell treatment is still in the maturation phase, especially in achieving comparable results, although there is already evidence of its effectiveness in the treatment of leukaemia, for example.

Currently, there are more than 4,000 reliable stem cell clinical trials, with cells obtained from various sources (blood and umbilical cord tissue, bone marrow and adipose tissue) in cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, autoimmune and spinal cord injuries (accidents), among others, which have greatly raised the hope of successful treatment being available in the future for more serious pathologies.

In practical terms, there can be three types of stem cells – embryonic, adult or mesenchymal.

The embryonic type are found in the human embryo and are classified as totipotent or pluripotent, due to their power of cellular differentiation. This type of cells can be obtained from the cells of a baby’s umbilical cord, and it is possible to cryopreserve them at birth.

The adult type are found in tissue such as bone marrow, blood, liver, umbilical cord, placenta, and others. However, obtaining tissue from them, and therefore using them, is more limited (hence the advantage of cryopreservation at birth).

Finally, mesenchymal cells are part of tissue stromal cells (they are normally found in bone marrow and adipose tissue) and have the ability to differentiate into different tissues, allowing their regeneration, as in the case of bone tissue, cartilage, hepatic, cardiac and neuronal. One of their particularities is that they have a powerful immunosuppressive activity, which opens the possibility of their clinical application in autoimmune diseases and also in transplant rejection.

Although there is still a long way to go, the future of stem cell research and therapy looks very promising. Over the next decade, it is expected that some stem cell therapy protocols will become the treatment for diseases for which currently there is no cure.

 Article submitted by the HPA Group