What Obstacles Need to Be Overcome for Stem Cell Therapy Progression? - Stem Cell Centers, Regenerative Stem Cell Therapy

What Obstacles Need to Be Overcome for Stem Cell Therapy Progression?

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Stem Cell Obstacles

Stem cell obstacles are present, but not insurmountable.  Their potential is too vast to let anything stand in the way of progression. Why are stem cells so important? Stem cells have the ability to self-renew. This amazing trait allows your body to heal in ways never before imagined. Damaged and weakened cells are at the heart of most diseases and disorders. Stem cells house the ability to become healthy cells; whatever your body needs to heal and restore prior function. Stem cells have the potential to grow entire organs and even provide joint renewal. There’s no real limit to the number of diseases that stem cells have the potential to treat which is why there has been such a push to study them.

What Potential Do Stem Cells Have?

In a special issue of Translational Research published in September of 2010, an international group of medical experts provided insights into the high-speed, ever-changing field of stem cell research.  This research underscored the potential for stem cells for therapy of human diseases such as: cardiovascular diseases, renal failure, neurologic disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, pulmonary diseases, neoplastic diseases, and type 1 diabetes mellitus.

So, with all the potential for stem cells, what stands in the way of Stem Cell Therapy progression? Read on.

Almost Half a Century Ago Stem Cells Made Their Mark

The first successful bone marrow transplant occurred in 1968. Somatic stem cells are housed in your bone marrow and are able to produce all of the different cell types that comprise your blood. Bone marrow transplants are now a routine procedure to treat a variety of blood and bone marrow diseases, blood cancers, and immune disorders. More recently, stem cells from the bloodstream (called peripheral blood stem cells) and umbilical cord stem cells have been successfully used to treat some of the same blood-based diseases.

According to scientists at the University of Utah Genetics Science Learning Center, research has shown that bone marrow stem cells have the ability to differentiate into cell types that make up tissues outside of the blood, like in your liver and muscles. Researchers are currently exploring new uses for these stem cells so they can treat conditions beyond diseases of the blood.

What Stem Cell Therapies Are Available Today?

Stem cell therapy is used today to help prevent and treat certain diseases and conditions.  Bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem-cell therapy, but some therapies derived from umbilical cord blood are also popular.

Stem cell injections are also a type of therapy available today. Amniotic stem cell therapy injections deliver stem cells from amniotic tissues into your body. (For clarification, this type of stem cell comes from the amniotic sac – not an embryo. ) Similar to cortisone and steroid shots, stem-cell injections have anti-inflammatory properties, but these injections offer far more benefits than standard injection therapies.  While cortisone and other drugs only provide temporary pain relief, stem cells actually restore degenerated tissue AND eliminate pain. The growth factors in amniotic stem cells replace damaged cells in your body.  Inflammation is treated simultaneously during treatment because the injections contain hyaluronic acid, which lubricates joints and tendons, easing the pain and helping restore mobility.

Current Stem Cell Obstacles Therapy Faces

In science, often, the more far-reaching an outcome can be, the more work it requires to make it happen.  Here are a few of the current challenges Stem Cell Therapy must overcome before its potential can be realized:

  • Learning more about the properties of stem cells in relation to disease behaviors
  • Formulating standardized protocols for stem cell isolation and preparation to obtain consistent, reliable outcomes
  • Understanding of disease progression so scientists/doctors can know how, when, and where to introduce stem cell therapy for lasting results
  • Ethical factors with embryonic stem cell research and treatments
  • Controlling and regulating stem cell differentiation into the desired cell type after the stem cells have been isolated  
  • Preventing immunorejection after stem cell transplantation. With certain types of stem cells and procedures, a person’s immune system may recognize the transplanted cells as foreign bodies triggering an immune reaction that results in the rejection of the transplanted cells.
  • Identification of stem cells in adult tissues
  • Regulations–both scientific and governmental–that slow down the process
  • Generating large enough quantities of a cell type to provide the needed amount for treatment.  (Some adult stem cells have a very limited ability to divide, making it challenging to multiply them in larger quantities).
  • Differentiation: The tricky process of guiding maturing stem cells from a pluripotent state to an adult tissue type is called differentiation.
  • Learning more about diseases themselves: According to David Owens, PhD, Program Director of the Neuroscience Center at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), one of the biggest hurdles to stem cell therapy for treating disease is that scientists do not yet fully understand the diseases themselves. Genetic and molecular signals that direct the abnormal cell division and differentiation that cause a particular condition have to be studied further so that appropriate stem cell therapies can be prescribed.

The Good News

While this seems like an exhaustive list of challenges facing stem cell science, the field is making great advances everyday.  Stem Cell Therapy is already available for treating some conditions and diseases. Safe and effective treatments for most diseases, conditions and injuries ARE in the future.