Regarded as a breakthrough in medical science for its therapeutic potential, the study about stem cells is a pursuit that promises a revolutionary result about not only treating ailments, but also understanding diseases.
Stem cell research is one of the most incredible methods in medicine to showcase current and potential breakthroughs in therapy and long-term wellness.
Knowing the crucial role of cells in the formation of tissues that subsequently made up the organs, a stem cell is ideally a treatment which addresses a significant number of illnesses at the cellular level.
The discovery of the stem cell and how certain types of cells can be grown from it has been a topic of research since the early 1980’s. While most studies pertaining to this interesting topic has been mostly successful in animal models, more and more researches are being conducted to test its efficacy in human biology.
There are several benefits of stem cell research. Here are 10 notions about stem cells we know today based on many researches:
Benefits of Stem Cell Research
1. It can improve heart condition
One of the main advantages of stem cell research is in the finding of this cutting-edge method of treating heart-related issues, particularly resulting to repair, reduced remodeling, or regeneration (Hakuno et al, 2002; Amado et al, 2005; Dai et al, 2005; Schneider et al, 2008). Corroborating to the “regenerative” effect of stem cell treatment is a research by Bergmann et al, 2009, which saw the renewal of the cardiomyocytes in the study.
2. Can restore certain neurological functions such as birth defects and autism
Although the topic of stem cells’ ability to help people with brain-related ailments are yet to be realized, some significant animal studies are giving hope to that aspirations. Based on the studies conducted by a few groups of researchers, it has been found out that the stem cells treatment approach towards neurological disorders arising from trauma has some substantial benefits (Daniela et al, 2007; Hu et al, 2010; Shimada and Spees, 2011).
Joseph Yanai of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, a Ross Laboratory for Studies in Neural Birth Defects Director, says stem cell therapy is one of the best methods to reverse the effects of birth defects since its nature is complex and almost impossible to fully understand. Stem cells find the defect, analyze it, then they repair it.
The use of umbilical cord tissues from healthy mothers after birth is a common practice of stem cell treatment for autism. Anyone with autism can be treated because HLA matching is not necessary. Doctors in Panama noticed huge improvements and changes in Sondra Lee’s patient son after undergoing stem cell treatment. Issues about the boy’s long standing gut issues have remarkably disappeared.
3. It can potentially repair damaged tooth and promote hair regrowth
There is a powerful belief that tooth decay is an irreversible condition, particularly among adults. However, a closer look into the make-up of the teeth and the plausible role of stem cells found that the condition may actually be reversible, essentially making the tooth grow more tissue from its remnants (Gronthos et al, 2002; Ohazama et al, 2004; Jo et al, 2007; Ikeda et al, 2009; Balic et al, 2010; Volponi et al, 2010).
Researcher Dr. Alexey Terskikh from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute developed a way using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells that can regrow hair. Stem cells provide an unlimited source of cells for transplant treatment in patients suffering from baldness.
4. Possible treatment against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is one of many diseases like Alzheimer’s with an unknown cause. However, scientists can identify the cells and areas of the brain which the disease targets. Practitioners use stem cell treatment to re-grow Dopamine-producing nerve cells in patients with Parkinson’s. If a single well-defined type of cell is affected, Parkinson’s is likely treated by replacing unhealthy neurons with new ones.
There is a strong link between the level of dopamine in the brain and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, which is essentially a case of dying neurons in the substantia nigra part of the brain that subsequently results to loss of motor functions. In a few different studies which tried to assess the treatment potential of stem cells therapy against the said disease, an exciting finding was found—the stem cell treatment induces dopamine functions in the brain (Kim et al., 2002; Rodriguez-Gomez et al., 2007).
There are some medical doctors and scientists who already use stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and claim that the treatment is successful. Although there is still no approved and carefully regulated process for administering treatments, hospitals and clinics which receive the green light from the government’s health sector utilize stem cell treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s. Currently, researchers are still conducting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease to find methods with consistent success in the future.
5. Promotes spinal cord recovery
The backbone is a special part of the body in that it not only serves as a frame that enables us to perform motor functions in tandem with the body’s tissues, it also houses one of the body’s major nerve. The idea applies not just to humans, but to all vertebrates, in general. In an interesting study which made use of an animal subject with spinal cord injury saw that stem cells treatment has the potency to treat the condition (McDonald et al, 1999). A different study by Keirstad et al (2005) also supported the same claim.
During clinical trials, stem cells contribute to spinal cord regeneration by renewing the neurons that died because of the injury, reforming myelin and acting as a support column across the injury, protecting cells from damage by the release of growth factors and bonding with free radicals, and relaxing the inflammation from the injury.
6. May help restore vision
Not all cases of visual impairments are permanent; some can actually be treated and thereby to be recovered from. In another animal study involving mice, it was found out that the employ of stem cells treatment has the efficacy of restoring vision to the subject (Lamba et al, 2009).
Embryonic stem cell trials to recover from blindness was a success for Jules Stein Eye Institute of University of California. After injecting retinal cells produced from stem cells into the eyes of patients, they reported improvements in their vision saying that it made a huge difference.
7. Could help stroke victims recover motor functions
Survivors of stroke often suffer a debilitating condition, which renders them unable to exhibit normal motor functions. The same is also true in animals, like rodents. In a study which attempted to treat a rodent that had a stroke, saw a positive correlation to recovering needed motor functions with the application of stem cells treatment (Hicks et al, 2009).
HealthDay News reported that patients who suffered from stroke saw some improvements in weakness or paralysis after a six-month procedure. Researchers injected stem cells into the patients’ brains and the product of research encouraged them to plan a more comprehensive research procedure which will use bone marrow stem cells.
8. Boosts wound healing and repair of damaged organs
Not all cases of wounds heal fast. Some, referred to as “chronic wounds,” heal longer than others, possibly induced by an underlying medical condition. But in a study done by Lin et al, 2012, she establishes a discovery which saw the potential of stem cells treatment to inducing faster healing of wounds. However, it is important to note that the research was conducted on animal model, not humans.
In 2011, Forbes reported the dramatic improvement of patients who suffered from serious heart damage after being injected with stem cells. The stem cells repaired the damaged heart tissue by generating new healthy heart cells in the hearts of the patients.
9. Potential anti-cancer treatment
The conventional treatment against cancer can be an extreme measure which leads to patients suffering from the detrimental effect of the imposed treatment. With an interest in finding a more delicate approach against cancer, scientists have began looking to stem cells treatment as an efficient means against the potentially deadly disease. A research conducted by Zhang, C.L. et al (2017) saw the possibility of the breakthrough technology found in stem cells research to be potent against cancer, specifically in delivering treatment directly towards the tumor.
Saigon published a success story on June 27, 2014 about a patient of Hue Central Hospital located in Vietnam with a Late Stage Ovarian Cancer patient who underwent a successful stem cell bone marrow transplant. A patient from Mayo Clinic based on the U.S., who suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma opted for an autologous stem cell transplant and it made the difference her life because she became healthy and there have been no signs of the disease ever since.
10. Plausible treatment against chronic kidney disease
Individuals who have been afflicted with a case of prolonged kidney disease often suffer in a condition where their kidneys are no longer 100% functioning. Unattended a chronic kidney disease can indeed degenerate and will subsequently give birth to complications that could result to death. In a bid to find a solution to this problem, a group of Korean scientists (Lee, S.R. et al, 2010) began a study which aims to see the benefit of stem cells treatment against the fight for healthier kidneys from their damaged state. Fortunately, the result has been pretty promising.
To reiterate, most of the studies about stem cells research were conducted on animal models and not humans. While certain tests were indeed tried on our species, the results are often less than stellar, driving further the need to understand stem cells technology better.
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