Stem cell therapy, or regenerative medicine, is the use of stem cells or their derivatives to treat conditions or diseases. The doctor uses the stem cells to replace diseased or defective cells.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are a type of undifferentiated or “blank” cell that have the ability to become different types of cells, such as bone cells, muscle cells, skin cells, etc. There are two main types: embryonic and adult.
Embryonic stem cells come from blastocysts, which are embryos that are four or five days old. Blastocysts have not yet implanted themselves in the uterus, and they consist of two cell layers. The outer layer develops into the placenta while the inner layer becomes the embryo proper.
Cells taken from the blastocyst’s inner layer are sometimes called “totipotent,” for they have the ability to become any type of cell in the human body. Embryonic stem cells usually come from “extra” embryos created for in vitro fertilization at fertility clinics.
Adult or somatic stem cells come from different parts of the human body. They have been found in bone marrow, the brain, the liver, skin, blood, muscles and blood vessels. They remain dormant until the body needs them to replace damaged cells. They can differentiate into cells associated with the tissue or organ in which they are located.
So, stem cells in the skin can become any type of skin cell needed while stem cells in the liver can become different types of liver cells. They can even regenerate entire organs in this fashion. Some researchers believe that adult stem cells might also be able to differentiate into other types of cells besides those of their place of origin.
Do People Really Use Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells taken from the blood or bone marrow have been used as treatments for years. They are used to treat people with cancer, especially chemotherapy patients whose cells have been damaged by the various drugs. They are also used to treat people with certain diseases of the immune system and blood diseases, like leukemia. Stem cells from the skin have been used to grow new skin that can be used as grafts to treat burn victims.
What Lies Ahead?
A large challenge with stem cell therapy is getting the stem cells to differentiate into the desired cell type. Another important aspect of stem cell research is growing entire organs. Currently, organs used in transplants come from donors, and the demand far exceeds the supply. If scientists could make organs, doctors could treat far more people who need transplants. Organs and tissues grown from a patient’s stem cells would also be far less likely to be rejected than tissues and organs transplanted from a donor.
At Chernoff Cosmetic Surgery, we proudly use non-embryonic adult mesenchymal stem cells for investigational procedures. These can be used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from incontinence to Parkinson’s disease. To see how stem cell therapy can benefit you, schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Indianapolis, Santa Rosa, Beverly Hills or Newport Beach. Contact us today to book your appointment.