There’s a reason why the stem cell therapy industry is worth an estimated $7.8 billion. The fairly new medical treatment is showing great promise in treating certain types of cancers, blood diseases, and immune diseases. These types of treatments rely on a stem cell transplant from either the person receiving the treatment or a donor.
But who exactly needs these types of treatments? In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about stem cell transplants. We’ll also let you know if the treatment is the right decision for you. Let’s get started!
What are Stem Cells?
It’s helpful to think of stem cells as the body’s raw resources which can be formed into a specific function. In essence, they are master cells. Stem cells create more cells by dividing. These new cells are known as daughter cells and they have two functions. One function is either to become new stem cells.
The other is to become a specialized cell with a more specific purpose. There are numerous specialized cells, like blood cells, liver cells, bone cells, cardiac muscle cells, nerve cells, and brain cells. So why is there so much interest in stem cells? Well for one thing they help researchers understand the nature of diseases.
By monitoring how these cells grow, function, and transform, scientists, can learn more about how certain conditions develop. They’re also ideal for testing known medications and drugs that aren’t yet safe for people. As we will see, you can even transplant them to fully cure certain conditions.
Why Do You Transplant Them?
There are a variety of reasons why someone might require a stem cell transplant. The first reason is that their body simply doesn’t produce them anymore. By effect, this means that your body can’t produce new blood cells which causes a whole host of problems dealing with the immune system.
The second reason is that the blood cells or bone marrow cells in your body have become diseased. When this happens you need new stem cells to replace these diseased cells with healthy ones. The final reason to transplant stem cells is if you have a type of cancer.
Cancer treatments typically require chemotherapy. This is a type of radiation treatment that kills the cancer cells in your body. Unfortunately, it also destroys the stem cells.
As such, you need new stem cells to replace the ones you lost during chemotherapy. The intensity of the stem cells depends on how aggressive the chemotherapy is. Certain types of treatment don’t require concentrated stem cells.
What are the Different Types of Stem Cell Transplants?
There are several different types of stem cell transplants. The first is known as autologous transplantation. This type of transplants uses stem cells from the patient’s own body. How does this work? The stem cells are extracted from the body. Then they are treated and conditioned until they reach working order.
Once they are functioning again, they are returned to the body. The second type of stem cell transplant is known as allogeneic transplantation. This is when the stem cell that the patient uses comes from a donor. These donors can be family members or just people with compatible cells.
The final type of transplant, known as syngeneic transplantation, is also the least common. That’s because it only works for twins who have the same type of genetic makeup. There are three places where stem cells can be obtained: the blood, an umbilical cord, and bone marrow.
Why Is There Controversy Surrounding Stem Cells?
As we mentioned, there are three popular ways of getting stem cells: the blood, the umbilical cord, and bone marrow. However, we left out another method: embryonic stem cells. At the stage in which they’re harvested these embryos are known as blastocysts and they contain 150 pluripotent cells.
The controversy is that these embryos can only come about when an egg is fertilized by sperm. As such, there are moral complications that arise for many individuals.
As such, certain restrictions are in place regarding how embryonic cells can be used. However, it’s important to note that this controversy is limited to embryonic stem cells. The other methods of obtaining them are perfectly ethical.
Who Needs Stem Cell Transplants?
Stem cell transplants have been proven to cure several different types of cancers. It’s been most successful against acute lymphoblastic leukemia (or ALL). However, it’s also shown positive results against acute myeloid leukemia (or AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (or CLL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (or CML), and testicular cancer.
In addition to these types of cancer, stem cells are also showing promising results with a wide range of blood and immune disease. Here are just some of the conditions that require people to have a stem cell transplant:
- Aplastic anemia
- Sickle cell anemia
- Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria
- Dyskeratosis congenital syndromes
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndrome
- Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia
- Autoimmune disorders
- Bone marrow
It’s important to remember that not all of these types of stem cell transplants require donors. Many, like advanced orthopedic stem cell treatment, use cells taken from your own body. As such, you should always do research and consult with your doctor on the best option for your specific needs.
Interested in More Content? Keep Reading
We hope this article helped you learn more about what happens during a stem cell transplant. Stem cell therapy has indeed been used to cure thousands of individuals. However, as we mentioned there are also risks involved.
As such, anyone considering the treatment should always consult with their doctor first. Did you enjoy this article? If you answered yes, then you’re in the right place. We’ve got plenty of more diverse topics for you to choose from. Keep exploring our site to find more content you’ll love.