Stem Cell Therapy: A Brief On The History, Present And Future

In Blog by Stem Cell Therapy

Recent discoveries in the stem cell therapy has lead to development of stem cell injections for diseases like knee osteoarthritis. This has not always been the case though. Stem cell therapy was introduced during the 20th century to battle the cancerous cells developed during leukemia. This cancer of blood provided insight into how crucial stem cells are in treating them. Blood is one of the most rapidly replaced tissue in the body. A scientist named Pappenheim, in 1917, postulated the existence of a undifferentiated stem cell in the body and named it “gemeinsame Stamzelle.”

The stem cells found were hematopoietic or blood forming stem cells were found in the bone marrow. After several researches, Till and McCullough established the use of these stem cells found in the bone marrow to combat leukemia in 1961. With the use of such methods, they were able to prove that stem cells can further reproduce into healthy cells under the right circumstances. The total number of stem cells found in a blood sample from the bone marrow was estimated around 0.05% at the time. It was observed that when the new stem cells were introduced to the body, it had the ability to reproduce into new and healthy blood cells which replaced the leukemia infected blood cells.

The stem cells found in bone marrow are what’s called resting stem cells and do not reproduce or regenerate until “programmed” to. This flexible function of it is what allows it to be an effective treatment when it comes to combating leukemia. Even though they do not reproduce on their own, they are capable of responding to stress signals like loss of blood, oxygen depravity etc. This hematopoietic cell is parent to most of the blood cells found in the human body. These cells in turn make way for the mature blood cells that are found in the human body. Circulating blood consists of cells which are further divided into polymorphonuclear cells (cells which survive for a day or two), erythrocytes (which survive for months), lymphocytes (which survive from days to years).

Majority of the blood cells cannot reproduce themselves through mitosis. For instance, the erthrocytes have excluded their nuclei and polymorphonuclear cells have inactive nuclei which are condensed into clumps at the center. Since the quantity of polymorphonuclear blood cells is more compared to other blood cells, it requires a great number of precursor blood cells to reproduce rapidly according to the body’s requirement. These precursor blood cells are present in the bone marrow which allows such rapid multiplication and thus, maintaining the required amount of blood cells in the body present at all times. The multipotent stem cell found in the bone marrow does not proliferate often. Hence, it is apt for procedures involving transplant of these stem cells to combat leukemia.

After the bone marrow transplant, the stem cells have the potential to differentiate into almost any kind of cell including endothelium, muscle, liver, pancreatic cells, heart, brain, type 1 & type 2 pneumocytes, kidney, skin, ocular retina etc. Serial transplantation suggested that there may exist not one, but more than one type of stem cells. This lead to the discovery of pleopotent stem cells which ignited interest in many people’s mind about adult stem cells and amniotic stem cells. Although it is difficult to prove that there are more than one type of stem cell, three different studies suggest that a single stem cell can be further divided into different types of cells including muscle, blood or tissue.

Regardless of the debate, the fact remains that an adult or amniotic stem cell which is found in the bone marrow can be used to treat patients with leukemia using bone marrow transplant. The use of stem cell injections for knee osteoarthritis is also widely popular. This effective treatment has been able to save lives of millions of children suffering from leukemia around the world. However, there have been some debates based on the study of endothelium cells development during bone marrow transplant. One study found that, on closer inspection, the endothelium cells that were developing were doing so due to pre-existing endothelium cells in the marrow and not the stem cells. In other study, it was found that the muscle tissues developing as a result of stem cells were doing so due to the hematopoietic stem cells present in the muscle. The results were conflicting and no conclusion could be derived from both the above experiments. When compared, it was found that in a chronic model of restoration of damaged liver, fusion of stem cells and livers could be found. Yet, during the recovery of pancreatic cells, no such fusion was discovered.

The demonstration of fusion in the chronic severe injury models may be due to marked disruption of the architecture of the liver and compression of the circulating cells against damage cells. Thus, the possibility of fusion in vivo, in the absence of extensive cell injury or in mature diploid cells is still to be found. There still remains many unanswered questions about stem cell therapy; however, with more and more research being conducted in the field, the possibilities are endless.

Stem cell injections is being used by many facilities to relieve people from their back injury, knee osteoarthritis, hip related disorders, joint pains etc. This became possible due to the research conducted previously by various groups of people who discovered this method. Injections developed from adult stem cells (which is most of the times extracted from a patient’s blood itself), or amniotic stem cells are a major contributor for the development in this field.

Developing stem cell therapy to perfection would mean that there would be no need for any pharmaceutical drugs anymore and the human body would be able to heal itself using the cells found in the patient’s body. Various governments also see potential in this therapy and are funding various research projects in the field.

This would mean that there is no fear of side-effects arising due to various drug medications. There is no risk factor involved since the body will accept stem cells from one’s own body or adapt to the amniotic stem cells. Therefore, the future of stem cell therapy seems to be bright and this mainly stems from the fact that both physicians and patients believe in its potential as an effective regenerative treatment.