Vipul Jain, CEO, Advancells shares how by 2020, we will be able to produce a wide range of tissues using adult stem cells, with noteworthy progress in tissue building and repair
Stem cells are found in the body’s organs, tissues, blood, and immune system and have the ability to regenerate into additional stem cells or differentiate into specialised cells, such as nerve or blood cells. This remarkable ability makes them invaluable in medical treatments. Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. It is the next chapter of organ transplantation and uses cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply.
Researchers grow stem cells in a lab. These stem cells are manipulated to specialise into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. Their primary role in the body is maintenance and repair of different tissues.
The specialised cells can then be implanted into a person. For example, if the person has heart disease, the cells could be injected into the heart muscle. The healthy transplanted heart cells could then contribute to repairing defective heart muscle.
Stem cell treatment or therapy refers to introducing new adult stem cells into damaged tissue to treat a particular type of disease. For instance, stem cells from the bone marrow, adipose tissue and umbilical cord (embryonic stem cells) have been used to treat many chronic diseases. Stem cell therapy also holds the potential to treat a variety of other serious ailments, such as, type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and a variety of cancerous conditions. Very recently, a child afflicted by autism and a young woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have been completely cured through stem cell therapy, where conventional treatment procedures failed to yield positive results.
Key areas where stem cell therapy can result in effective treatment are neurological conditions, orthopaedics, chronic kidney diseases, COPD and other lung diseases, liver diseases, cardiology, autoimmune disorders, ophthalmology diseases, infertility and cosmetic procedures.
Over the past two decades, advances in stem cells have garnered support from scientists across the medical community, and has become the most confabulated discovery. Be the ethical issues related to the embryonic stem cells or the success rates of therapeutic applications of adult stem cells. Despite much of the controversy, the research has gained tremendous momentum and eluded many recent advances in treating a variety of diseases; although the principal behind it had been rooted way back in the ancient science of regenerating lost tissues. Although the behaviour and mechanism of stem cells are globally under intense scrutiny, people are no longer fascinated about the remarkable potential of stem cells and their therapeutic applications. However, there are still many unknowns that need to be understood.
As it is obvious and equally inevitable in any rapidly growing field, there are many misconceptions about the nature and uses of stem cells like these cells are immortal and hence unlimited supply of them is available for therapeutic purposes. However the fact is that their lifespan is telomerase dependent and they are not actually immortal. Additionally their occurrence is very rare, almost 1 in 10,000 and hence enrichment of pure population of stem cells is required. Secondly, there is a strong inclination towards stem cell banking, as they are known to be the easiest option available, however, these stem cells are present in all mature organs and can be withdrawn from any point of time. Further to this, when these cells are banked how safely they can be stored and how their originality is retained is still questionable. Currently Bone Marrow and Adipose tissues are known to be the most accessible, potent and approved sources available, which can be easily exploited for treating variety of diseases. Lastly, there is a strong belief that embryonic stem cells is the most potent version of stem cells, however it has sparked considerable ethical and moral debate, these cells are also known to be having tumerigenic properties (can develop into tumours) as the science has not been able to still find out a solution for controlling their unlimited divisions or multiplications. On the contrary, adult stem cells are much specific and are the most stalked for treatment purpose. As of now thus autologous stem cells are ideally suited candidates with minimum risk of immune rejection by the human body itself, less expensive and without any ethical or legal hassles.
Although the behaviour and mechanism of stem cells are globally under intense scrutiny, people are no longer fascinated about the remarkable potential of stem cells and their therapeutic applications. Here are still many unknowns that need to be understood
Some other common myths surrounding stem cells are that stem cells only come from embryos, bone marrow is the best source of stem cells, stem cell therapy is unproven and that, there is a risk of “rejection” with stem cell therapy. When a patient’s stem cells are derived from his own body (such as fat tissue), there is no such risk of rejection. Considerable research and actual surgeries have now changed these once commonly believed myths.
By 2020, we will be able to produce a wide range of tissues using adult stem cells, with spectacular progress in tissue building and repair. In some cases, these stem cells will be actually incorporated into the new repairs as differentiated cells, in other cases; they will be temporary assistants in local repair processes. Autologous stem cells treatment has definitely hold a great medical promise with the added advantage in terms of being simpler, more predictable, long lasting, time and cost effective option available currently.