What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem cell therapy, but some therapies derived from umbilical cord blood are also in use.
Regenerative medicine is an emerging branch of medicine with the goal of restoring organ and/or tissue function for patients with serious injuries or chronic disease in which the bodies own responses are not sufficient enough to restore functional tissue. A growing crisis in organ transplantation and an aging population have driven a search for new and alternative therapies. There are approximately 90,000 patients in the US transplant-waiting list. In addition there are a wide array of major unmet medical needs which might be addressed by regenerative technologies.
New and current Regenerative Medicines can use stem cells to create living and functional tissues to regenerate and repair tissue and organs in the body that are damaged due to age, disease and congenital defects. Stem cells have the power to go to these damaged areas and regenerate new cells and tissues by performing a repair and a renewal process, restoring functionality. Regenerative medicine has the potential to provide a cure to failing or impaired tissues.
While some believe the therapeutic potential of stem cells has been overstated, an analysis of the potential benefits of stem cells based therapies indicates that 128 million people in the United States alone may benefit with the largest impact on patients with Cardiovascular disorders (5.5 million), autoimmune disorders (35 million) and diabetes (16 million US patients and more than 217 million worldwide): US patients with other disorders likely to benefit include osteoporosis (10 million), severe burns (0.3 million),spinal cord injuries (0.25 million).
What diseases and conditions can be treated with stem cells?
The most well-established and widely used stem cell treatment is the transplantation of blood stem cells to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system, or to restore the blood system after treatments for specific cancers. The US National Marrow Donor Program has a full list of diseases treatable by blood stem cell transplant. More than 26,000 patients are treated with blood stem cells in Europe each year.
Since the 1970s, skin stem cells have been used to grow skin grafts for patients with severe burns on very large areas of the body. Only a few clinical centres are able to carry out this treatment and it is usually reserved for patients with life-threatening burns. It is also not a perfect solution: the new skin has no hair follicles or sweat glands. Research aimed at improving the technique is ongoing.
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Not intended as medical advice. Please consult a physician for all medical issues.