“Knowledge is Power.” We’ve heard that quote our entire lives, although it’s usually applied to government policies, espionage, and tactics. But while it’s valuable in those situations, the real place it’s best-applied is in science. Look around your home, or even contemplate what device you are reading this on: knowledge creates breakthroughs that make your life easier, and nowhere is it more visibly effective than in medicine.

Cell-based therapies and treatments have created huge discussions in the scientific community

We often think of cell-based therapies as those involving the use of cells from umbilical cords, extracted at birth; however, these aren’t the only types of cells that can be used to save countless lives in the fight against multiple different diseases. In fact, stem cell research has resulted in treatments for more than 80 different diseases and disorders that were otherwise incurable, ranging from a fatal diagnosis like many cancers to conditions like Diabetes, metabolic issues, and immune deficiencies, which can lower life expectancy, can greatly decrease quality of life, and can even be fatal, depending on their severity.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy is also called regenerative medicine because it uses the introduction of stem cells into the body to promote the repair response of diseased, dysfunctional, or injured tissue. It works like organ transplantation, but instead of using donor organs, it uses donor cells. However, these cells aren’t simply extracted from a donor; they can actually be grown in a lab. Why? Because donors are often in short supply, which means the waiting lists for donor organs and cells can be long, and the extraction methods, when they involve a donor, are invasive and painful for the donor. Scientific innovation found a way to come up with the same cells, but without the invasive procedures, by instead growing their stem cells in a lab.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a stem cell line is a group of cells that all descend from a single original stem cell and are grown in a lab.” These cells keep growing without differentiating into specialized cells, which mean they contain the original DNA information and remain free from genetic defects. These “healthy” cells can then be implanted into a person’s diseased or damaged tissues, like into the heart muscle of a person with heart disease, where they will grow and stimulate the surrounding heart cells to repair or heal using the healthy information they contain.

Has this been successful in practice?

Yes! It has been proven that adult bone marrow cells that are used in stem cell therapy can be guided to become heart-like cells that can actually repair heart tissue in people. More research is ongoing, but the potential is immense.

Medicine does wonderful things for us.

Our advances in medicine have given us significantly longer lives over the last several centuries. That’s undeniable. Between basic antibiotics and implanted pacemakers, we’ve significantly improved all of our lives. This is part of the reason why regenerative medicines have always been so sought-after. By utilizing cellular treatment, and by investing in scientific research and development of new treatments, we as a society can fix the things under the surface and give so many other humans life expectancy and quality of life. Click here to learn more.

Reviewed by Dr. Paul V. Holland.