STEM CELL THERAPY

John Gurdon & Shinya Yamanaka Nobel Prize winners in 2012 for Stem Cell Research

There is a new revolution that is taking the scientific and medical world by storm. A revolution that was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Medicine for the year 2012. A revolution in which India is playing a pioneering role in medical sciences. A revolution that will forever change the world of patients suffering from incurable neurological disorders and injury. This revolution is called Stem Cell Therapy.


ABOUT STEM CELL THERAPY

Regenerative medicine is an emerging branch of medicine with the goal of restoring organ and/or tissue function for patients with serious injuries or chronic disease in which the body's own responses are not sufficient enough to restore functional tissue. A growing crisis in organ transplantation has driven a search for new and alternative therapies.

New and current Regenerative Medicines use stem cells to create living and functional tissues to regenerate and repair tissue and organs in the body that are damaged due to age, disease and congenital defects. Stem cells have the power to go to these damaged areas and regenerate new cells and tissues by performing a repair and a renewal process, restoring functionality.

'Stem cell therapy aims to replace cells damaged or destroyed by disease with healthy functioning ones using stem/precursor cells.'

What are stem cells?

A cell is a basic structural and functional unit of life. Our cells are responsible for all the metabolic activity, whether that is taking in nutrients, providing energy for you to go about your day, or reproducing. Cells in our body have many different functions and they 'stem' or ‘originate’ from simpler cells that are not yet specialized. These simpler cells are known as stem cells.

Stem cells are specialized cells, which can multiply manifold and can convert to any type of tissue of our body and have the ability to reach out and repair damaged parts of our body.

How do stem cells work?

Stem cells work by the following mechanisms:-

  1. They release growth factors which have a healing and regenerative effect on damaged tissue
  2. They cause angiogenesis or increase in the blood supply of damaged tissue thereby helping in their repair process
  3. They convert into the tissue type of cells into which they are implanted, thereby replacing non-functioning tissue.

What are the different types of stem cells used for therapy?

There are many types of stem cells used, but broadly they can be classified into 3 types:-

  1. Embryonic stem cells:- Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from 3-4 day embryos. These are obtained from spare embryos from IVF clinics with the consent of the donor. During this early developmental period, the cells that will ultimately give rise to the developing fetus can be encouraged to develop into tissues of different origins (totipotency) contributing greatly to stem cell therapy. However, there are many ethical and medical issues regarding its use. These are therefore, not being used presently.
  2. Umbilical cord stem cells:- These cells are derived from the umbilical cord which connects the baby and the mother at birth. Stem cells derived from the umbilical cord are stored by various cord blood banking companies. These stem cells do not have any major ethical issues surrounding their usage, but availability can be a problem.
  3. Adult stem cells:- They can be derived from the same patient, from either the hip bone or the adipose/fat tissue. Currently, they are the most popularly used stem cells. The benefits that adult stem cells offer are:-
    1. They are available in abundance and can be isolated easily.
    2. They are isolated from patients, which overcomes the problem of immunological rejection.
    3. Adult stem cells have the potential to replenish many specialized cells from just a few unspecialized ones.
    4. They do not have any ethical issues as they do not involve destruction of embryos.
    5. The risk of tumor formation is greatly reduced as compared to the use of embryonic stem cells.

What are the diseases that can be treated with stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy offer many the benefits for the health and medical fields. In fact, stem cells already have many applications for treating disease. Their potential to treat even more diseases in the future means that scientists are working hard to learn about how stem cells function and how they can treat some of the more serious diseases affecting the world.

Several disease and injuries of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system that have no other treatment options and were broadly described under the heading of incurable neurological disorders can be potentially treated with Stem cell therapy. These include muscular dystrophy, autism, cerebral palsy, MR sequale neurological damage following traumatic, infective and genetic conditions of the nervous system, long term paralysis occurring from spinal cord injury, stroke and so on.

How safe is stem cell therapy?

Adult stem cell therapy is a completely safe form of treatment. At Neurogen BSI and in all the available publications internationally and nationally, there have been no cases of serious adverse events or neurological deterioration due to stem cell therapy. Minor reversible symptomatic procedure related problems occasionally do occur but these are completely treatable with no long lasting effects.