When talking about stem cell therapies, we refer to the treatments as a form of regenerative medicine.
We talk about regenerative medicine as the future of medical treatment for many degenerative diseases and injuries.
But does everyone truly understand why regenerative medicine is such a game-changer in medicine? And what role stem cells play in regenerative medicine?
There’s no denying that great progress has been in medicine. However, as our population ages, current evidence-based and palliative treatments cannot keep pace with patients’ needs. There are few effective ways to treat the root causes of many diseases, injuries and hereditary conditions. In many instances, the best medical professionals can do is to manage patients’ symptoms with medications or devices.
Regenerative medicine, on the other hand, has the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions that are considered irreparable.
Regenerative medicine isn’t new; the first bone marrow and solid-organ transplants were done decades ago. But advances in development and cell biology, immunology, and other fields have opened new opportunities to refine existing regenerative therapies and develop new ones.
The Role of Stem Cells
Stem cells have the ability to redevelop, or differentiate, into many different types of cells; skin, brain, lung cells and so on. They’re a key component of regenerative medicine and open the door to new clinical applications.
Regenerative medicine teams are studying a variety of stem cells, including adult and embryonic stem cells. They’re also looking at progenitor cells, including those found in umbilical cord blood, and bioengineered cells called induced pluripotent stem cells.
Many of the regenerative therapies begin with the patient’s own cells, or autologous stem cells. For example, a patient’s own skin cells may be collected, reprogrammed in a lab to give them certain characteristics and delivered back to the patient to treat their disease.
In this way, stem cells are providing new ways to treat and manage several autoimmune and/or chronic diseases once considered incurable including diabetes, heart failure and degenerative nerve, bone and joint conditions.
When new cells are introduced into an infected area of the body, the cells replenish and differentiate into whatever cell type needed to fix the problem. When healthy cells are introduced into the injured area, they turn on and augment the body’s own repair or healing mechanism.