Stem Cell based repair in the 21st century will offer new hope for patients world wide who otherwise would suffer from the relentless progression of disease.
The year 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the first successful stem cell transplant. This transplant pioneered the exciting work and research of a completely new approach in medical treatment: Stem Cell Therapy (SCT).
These first transplants were what is called allogeneic, meaning the stem cells were harvested from one individual and transplanted into another. Previous research showed that transplants of blood forming bone marrow allowed the rescue of rodents following lethal doses of radiation; the transplanted bone marrow was able to reproduce in the transplanted animal all of the cell lines and functions of normal bone marrow.
Bone marrow transplant has been successful for over 50 years in reproducing bone marrow tissue in individuals where this organ has been lost due to radiation or chemotherapy in cancer treatments. Like blood transfusions, bone marrow transplant requires specific human leucocyte antigen matching to avoid the risk of rejection, medically known as graft-versus-host disease.
Medical experience over the years raised the question on how bone marrow tissue could not only be transplanted, but could provide a very active organ capable of producing multiple cell lines and immune components. The answer was the presence of stem cells.
Stem Cells in a classic definition possess two properties: Self-renewal and Potency.
SELF-RENEWAL is the ability of a cell to go through cycles of self-division while maintaining the undifferentiated state, in other words, create new stem cells. These cells will have the capacity to nest in the recipient organism and continue to provide new generations of stem cells. An undifferentiated cell has the inner capacity of transforming itself through differentiation into specific cells that will be needed to fulfill a function or create a structure; that is, to replace a damaged tissue and its function.
POTENCY is the capacity of a cell to transform itself, or differentiate, into specialized cell types. This way the original stem cell can give rise to any mature cell type according to the needs regulated by biochemical messages sent to the circulating stem cell.
One of the major breakthroughs in stem cell research is the recognition of stem cell populations and capacities in adult individuals. That is to say, the old idea that stem cells were only present during embryonic development is wrong; stem cells continue to exist throughout our lives and represent the source for cell replacement and renewal.
Stem Cell Research has covered so much in such a short amount of time and it’s only going to get better.
Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez, Medical director and cofounder of International Bio Care Hospital and Medical Center, is an internationally acclaimed and widely respected physician with a succesful academic career, and many research papers, symposia and conferences in his curriculum.