Each Type of Stem Cells Helps Improve People’s Lives
Found in every single organ and tissue in the body, stem cells are vital to our overall functionality. These naturally occurring cells don’t just assist in the development of various types of tissue, but they can promote healing and support the body in numerous constructive ways. They work hard to replenish the body’s network of specialized cells that have either been damaged or used up. Even though it is a fact that every single body hosts a never-ending supply of stem cells, many people think of them as a controversial topic in the news.
Over the last several years, stem cell therapy has been making a mark in regenerative medicine and even mainstream Western medicine. The more we learn about these cells, the better prepared we are to treat a wide range of conditions, illnesses, and diseases. But one of the biggest misconceptions about stem cells is where they come from and what they really are.
Today we are going to take a closer look at the four main types of stem cells in an effort to help you understand their role and how they can benefit you. Whether you are suffering from chronic hip pain or are curious about the research being done on stem cells for cardiovascular health, our team is here to help. We want to help you find the treatment that works best for your condition, and this starts with understanding your options. If you have any questions about the different types of stem cells discussed below, or if you would like to learn about the advantages of stem cell therapy for different conditions, please contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group today.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are essentially human cells that can turn into many different kinds of cells. Scientists find them in the following:
- Bone marrow
- Blood vessels
- Skin and teeth
As you can see, stem cells reside in all parts of the body. Although many types of cells have the ability to regenerate, others, such as blood muscle cells, cannot. Others are unique in that they can self-renew or create a different type of specialized cell (called differentiation).
These cells have the incredible ability to develop into cells that have different functions in various parts of the body. This is important to how the body functions overall. With this information in mind, it is no wonder stem cells are considered vital to the support and maintenance of tissues in the body.
Why Are Stem Cells Important?
Stem cells used in stem cell therapy are unspecialized because they can transform and step into various roles. Specialized cells, on the other hand, are those that have a specific purpose and job, such as red blood cells that have the sole responsibility of transporting oxygen in the bloodstream. Because stem cells can divide and create different versions of themselves time and time again, they are extremely important to how we look at the treatment of a wide range of conditions and illnesses.
If you remember nothing else about stem cells, know that they are self-renewing, and this is what makes them so vital.
The Different Types of Stem Cells
There are several different types of stem cells you should be aware of:
- Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) – These types of stem cells are pluripotent (they can differentiate into any other type of cell found in the body) and are obtained from the blastocyst. A blastocyst is a group of cells that form three to five days after the sperm fertilizes the egg. Scientists can extract them from the inner cell mass to use in the lab to grow other types of cells. There is some controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells, usually based on a person’s notion of when life begins. However, embryonic stem cells are very important and can help scientists gain a deeper understanding of how diseases develop.
- Tissue-specific stem cells – Also referred to as adult stem cells or somatic stem cells, tissue-specific stem cells are more specialized than the above. As you may have guessed, they grow the type of tissue or organ cells in which they reside. For example, liver stem cells will generate other liver stem cells. These stem cells are not as easy to locate as embryonic stem cells. However, new studies continue to help us understand them and their potential for healing.
- Induced pluripotent stem cells – Scientists develope these cells in a lab and reprogram them into a more specialized kind of cell, similar to how embryonic stem cells function. This was a ground-breaking discovery that has led to much excitement in the world of regenerative medicine.
- Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) – You can find these cells in the connective tissue that encompasses the body’s many tissues and organs. Researchers also refer to them as stromal cells. They were first found in the bone marrow, at which point scientists learned they could repopulate into bone, cartilage, and fat cells.
How We Use Stem Cells Today
Because stem cells can turn into different types of cells, they have the potential to help us understand many different diseases. Stem cells of today are being used in the following ways:
- Replace damaged organs and tissues
- Fix parts of organs that are not working as they should
- Help us understand why certain cells have genetic defects
- Regenerate heart tissue
- Spinal cord disease
- Lung disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Blood disorders
- Blood cancers
- Sickle cell anemia
- Immune disorders
- Macular degeneration and other eye diseases
- Skin conditions, such as psoriasis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Knee injuries
- Hip pain and injuries
Understanding what stem cells are, where they come from, and their role in the future of medicine is a must, as is understanding stem cell laws. The first stem cell policy can be traced back to 1974, but it wasn’t until the 2000s and President George W. Bush’s administration that stem cell laws started coming into question. There was a great deal of controversy and worry surrounding stem cells and cloning. This fact, unfortunately, shadowed the ways stem cells can be used for good. Right now, stem cell therapy is an integral part of regenerative medicine and one that more and more people are beginning to understand.
If you have questions about the different types of stem cells or stem cell policy, please do not hesitate to contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group today and schedule an appointment.