Our body is composed of a wide variety of cells, each one of these cells have been assigned to perform a specific function within our body, conversely Stem cells are a specific kind of cells that have not been specialized, they are the body’s “building blocks” able to multiply and transform into any kind of cell. There is so much about Stem cells, we will summarize it for you in this condensed but powerful article
When we suffer an injury or there is damage in the body new stem cells divide and multiply to become “specialized stem cells”, signaling the body to release growth factors in order to repair and heal the damage. This unique capability makes the Stem cells our most powerful intrinsic healing mechanism
But, how stem cells are defined?
Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by three main characteristics.
- They are capable of renewing themselves through a process called cell division even after extended periods of inactivity. Unlike other cells, Stem cells can proliferate
- They are unspecialized, meaning they do not have any tissue-specific structure that allows them to carry on any specialized function
- They can be induced to become specialized Cell types, giving rise to specific cells through a process called differentiation
When introduced in the body, most stem cells are capable to restore and repair damaged tissue and reestablish proper function of organs and systems, nonetheless there are many types of stem cells and they differentiate from each other based on their inherent function, the way they were obtained and their own intrinsic capabilities. Two important factors influence Stem cell treatment and outcome: how stem cells were obtained and what kind of Stem cells are to be used.
Kind of Stem cells
Embryonic Stem cells
as their name implies, Embryonic Stem cells are derived from embryos, they supply new cells for the growth and development of a baby. What makes these stem cells so incredibly powerful is their ability to give rise to every single type of cell that constitutes the body, this particular characteristic is called “pluripotency” and only embryonic stem cells are defined as pluripotent.
At the same time embryonic stem cells are frequently associated with the controversy surrounding the use and manipulation of embryos for scientific purposes. Currently in the united states embryonic stem cells access is only permitted for clinical trials and can be obtained only while using in vitro fertilization.
Amniotic Stem cells
Amniotic Stem cells or Adult stem cells are the primary Stem cell type used therapeutically for health and injury recovery treatments. These cells do not contain any embryonic or fetal tissue, they are obtained primarily from the umbilical cord and the amniotic sac, moreover, they are also present in bone marrow, fat and blood. Unlike embryonic stem cells, amniotic stem cells are not pluripotent, they are “multipotent”, this means that an amniotic stem cell can give rise only to specific types of cells in the body, making them “specialized”
Mesenchymal stem cells, (MSCs)
MSCs are tissue specific stem cells belonging to muscle-skeletal field. Mesenchymal stem cells have been studied extensively and evidenced to regenerate new cells and connective tissues used for the regrowth of ligaments, muscles, and tendons. For example, MSCs can help with injuries to the knee meniscus or long-term chronic damage leading to osteoarthritis. Since these Stem cells are adult specialized tissue-specific they are mostly used in the orthopedic and functional medicine fields, furthermore, this cells has been used to treat severe, chronic, repetitive and acute injuries including some forms of arthritis and acute athletic injuries.
Source of Stem cells
Once the patient decides to embark on a stem cell treatment is vital to understand where the stem cells are coming from. There are two ways to obtain stem cells: autologous, a procedure where the stem cells are obtained from the same individual, and allogeneic a process where stem cells are obtained from an individual different than the recipient. Both methods are currently being used and is up to the doctor and the patient to decide what’s the best route to take when tailoring a specific treatment.
Autologous Stem cells usually come from two sources, your own bone marrow and your adipose tissue (fat). To obtain Bone marrow stem cells, a needle is used to aspirate a concentrate made from fluid taken from your own body. This substance is then centrifuged and the concentrated grow factors and Stem cells are injected directly into the injured area. Adipose (fat) Stem cells can be obtained in two ways, from Stroma vascular fraction which yield highly concentrated cells and from Grafting with mechanical breakdown of adipose, both techniques are equally efficient at isolating growth factors and stem cells.
Allogeneic Stem cells are obtained from a different individual through an FDA approved process. These cells have some advantages in terms of the easiness of collection, the safety in harvesting both for the mother and fetus, and their inability to form any kind of tumor.
Comparatively, using the Autologous method, there is no need of an additional procedure (bone marrow aspiration) to be performed on the receiving patient. Compared to the patient’s own cells, allogeneic Stem cells have more longevity, Furthermore, the capacity of obtaining fluid containing a higher concentration of healing and grow factors per treatment is much more superior than what’s possible using autologous treatments
Amniotic and umbilical stem cells
Allogeneic stem cells currently used for therapeutical use come from different sources, primarily the amniotic sac (Amniotic Stem cells) and the umbilical cord (umbilical stem cells)
Amniotic Stem cells come from the amniotic sac, a protective fluid that nourish and shelter the embryo during the course of pregnancy. Since this fluid is in constant contact with the embryo, via skin, digestive tract and urinary and respiratory ducts it’s been shown to contain a variety of embryonic cells. Fluid from the amniotic sac have a high concentration of growth factors and regenerative cells, it also contains some areas of tissue similar to surgical graft. When injected therapeutically this tissue is used by the body as a scaffold / mesh from where the cells can start building new tissue
Stem cells can also be obtained postnatally from the umbilical cord, umbilical cord blood, placenta, perivascular areas, amniotic fluid, and from the tissue surrounding the umbilical cord vessels, i.e., Wharton’s jelly. (the gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord) these “multipotent” cells are representing the new frontier for more affordable and efficient stem cell treatments.
Stem cell therapy is a relatively new and exciting field of regenerative medicine with promising possibilities, as scientist are finding new ways to understand the body healing mechanisms and the role of specific cells you can benefit to proven and minimally invasive techniques using the same growth factors found in your own body.
Do you Want to know what specific stem cell therapy might be beneficial for you? Let us guide you through your options and create a plan using the most advanced research and technology to help you heal your injuries and restore optimal health to your body
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