What are Stem Cells?
The younger we are the more stem cells we have. As we age our stem cell count decreases and focuses on cell turnover, hence why we age. For regenerative therapies, stem cells can be obtained from fat, bone marrow, umbilical cord tissue and blood, placental tissue, and amniotic fluid. Once obtained and concentrated in an affected area, stem cells have the ability to rebuild cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and remodel bone through communication with the body’s existing cells. This process uses our own healing properties at an accelerated rate. When given systemically, stem cells decrease inflammation and have been found to be beneficial in many chronic diseases.
Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.
Given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potentials for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease. However, much work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease, which is also referred to as regenerative or reparative medicine.