We have heard about stem cell transplants but most of us are not sure what exactly is it, and when should we go for it.
Stem cells are basically early primitive undifferentiated cells that can grow into differentiated cell lines under controlled conditions.
The potential of this therapy is unlimited, which can replace all modern procedures.
Say for example, stem cell transplant procedures can give rise to a new liver in a laboratory and completely replace procedures such as liver transplantation.
Currently, these are used in the treatment of certain types of blood cancers and replacement of damaged bone marrow.
Stem Cell Transplant Procedure Facts
Here are 10 known and unknown facts about transplantation of these cells.
1. Autologous and Allogenic transplant
Stem cells may be taken from the patient’s own body (autologous transplant) or from a donor (allogenic transplant) when the bone marrow of the recipient is completely damaged.
Allogenic stem cell donation is done in cases where there is a high risk of disease relapse or a proven relapse is present.
2. Stem cell sources
Sources of stem cell procurement include bloodstream, bone marrow and placental or cord blood of new born babies.
Before procurement of stem cells, various medicines are given to increase the production of desired cells in the blood.
Sometimes, the bone marrow has to be used as the source of stem cells when the production of cell lines is not sufficient with the bloodstream source.
3. Conditioning process
4. Stem cell collection
To collect the stem cells, an apharesis catheter is inserted in the arm vein and blood is pumped through the apharesis machine which divides the blood into four components namely red blood cells, plasma, white blood cells and platelets.
Stem cells are harvested from the white blood cells and platelets.
5. Stem cell storage
Stem cells are stored in freezers of liquid nitrogen and mixed with the preservative, called DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide) until the time of transplantation.
6. Stem cell transplantation
At the time of transplantation, the frozen bags are thawed and transfused through a large bore cannula into the peripheral veins, slowly watching for any allergic or hypersensitivity reaction.
7. Monitoring in transplant suites
The recipients are returned to specially made transplant suites which are designed to prevent infection, where monitoring and follow up is also made.
Dependent to hospital policy, patients may stay at the area for about 1 to 4 weeks.
8. Side effects of the therapy
The side effects of this therapy are mainly because of the “conditioning” caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The body’s immune system is significantly lowered, putting the recipient susceptible to infection. Infection may be observed on the individual’s own skin, lungs, nostrils etc.
Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) is another significant complication that can develop.
This happens because the newly transfused stem cells mount an attack against the body itself recognizing it as “foreign”.
Most of the times, GVHD can be recognized early where immediate treatment can be initiated but sometimes, it can be fatal.
9. Formation of cells
After about 3-4 weeks the recipient’s body starts making their own cells. Usually, individuals can return to their normal activities.
10. Support with blood and blood products
In the intermittent period, a recipient might require support with blood and blood products till the time the body starts manufacturing its own blood cells.
Stem cell transplant procedures have been accepted as a treatment modality in few diseases like blood cancers.
A lot of research is going on to extend its advantages into other diseases but still a lot of work needs to be done.
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