Stem cell therapy (or Regenerative Medicine) is a relatively new field of medicine that explores the potential of using stem cells to treat diseases. Stem cells are a special type of cells that have the potential to differentiate into any kind of cell in the body. All of the cells in our body started from a line of stem cells that matured and differentiated into specific cells such as neurons (nerve cells), myocytes (muscle cells), skin cells, bone cells, blood cells, etc. Once differentiated, the cells in our body no longer have the ability to transform into other kinds of cells. Some differentiated cells also lack the ability to multiply or regenerate once differentiated. In contrast, stem cells are multipotent, which means that they can transform to any kind of cell. This pluripotent characteristic of stem cells is the basis for its use in the treatment of many diseases.
Stem cell therapy or regenerative medicine takes advantage of the pluripotent ability of stem cells to transform into any kind of cells and promote the process of repair and regeneration. Since stem cells can virtually become any kind of cell, it can virtually replenish any damaged or injured cell or organ. It can solve diseases that are due to defects in the genetic makeup of cells. It can provide a solution to injured organs that are known to lack the ability of regeneration (like the brain, the spinal cord, and the heart). It can also be the answer to aging and to many auto-immune diseases. It could be the future of organ transplantation and so much more. However, the majority of these possible uses of stem cell therapy remain to be in theory and are still under research.
Some of the more studied uses of stem cell therapy include:
- Treatment of leukemias and lymphomas and other blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndromes and hemoglobinopathies
- Treatment of diseases of the bone marrow such as multiple myeloma
- Treatment of inherited immunodeficiency syndromes like severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)