Cell Therapy: What Tomorrow Has in store for us?
Can scientists use the unique properties of stem cells more effectively than nature intended? The answer to this question will come very soon. The possibilities of cell technology are only in the process of research, but we already know some very interesting results, which allow us to start using stem cells in practical medicine.
One of the most important directions in this field is the study of aging processes and diseases associated with impaired tissue regeneration. The growth and development of the body are invariably accompanied by a decrease in the regenerative capabilities of tissues, which is associated with a decrease in the amount of SC. If a newborn has 1 stem cell per 10,000 differentiated, by the age of 50 this ratio is less favorable – 1 stem cell per 500,000. As we know, it is after 40-50 years that most people develop serious chronic diseases which significantly reduce the quality of life, take a long time to treat (often a lifetime) and are not effective enough (neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and many others). Even if a person at this age remains healthy, inevitably decreases the functional reserves of organs and systems, performance, ability to concentrate and learn. Scientists all over the world are asking the question: to what extent are these processes related to the regenerative capacity of the body?
Indeed, depletion of the SC reserve contributes to functional incompleteness and structural damage of tissues. Is it possible to improve regeneration in the body by exogenous influences? Undoubtedly, if we learn to control the speed and intensity of regeneration, it will open up great opportunities in the treatment of severe chronic diseases, increase life expectancy and improve its quality.
Scientists and doctors pin great hopes on stem cell therapy to cure such severe pathologies as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, cardiomyopathy, atherosclerosis, CHD, chronic joint diseases, including resistant juvenile arthritis, consequences of severe trauma, autoimmune diseases, severe forms of immune deficiency, collagenosis and others. Methods of SC maintenance therapy for many diseases have been developed, which significantly improve the patient’s condition and prognosis. Cardiologists have evaluated the effect of introducing SC into the damaged myocardium, which reduces the risk of postinfarction aneurysm, prevents the spread of the focus of necrosis and improves pumping function of the heart. With the help of cell therapy burns, wounds, skin ulcers and scars heal faster, rehabilitation after strokes and craniocerebral injuries takes place. Cell therapy is effective for multiple sclerosis, sexopathologies and infertility in men and women, oncological diseases. Techniques using SC are especially indicated for those who have suffered serious illnesses, injuries, burns or poisonings.
Pros and cons of cell technology
Stem cells are subdivided according to their origin into several types: embryonic, fetal, cord blood stem cells and adult cells. Each of them differs in its properties and has different applications.
For example, embryonic SCs, which can be derived from the blastocyst (5th day of intrauterine development), are able to differentiate into absolutely any cell of the adult body. But herein lies their main disadvantage: embryonic cells have an unacceptably high tendency to degenerate not only into healthy cells, but also into cancer cells. Therefore, no safe line of embryonic SCs, suitable for clinical use, has yet been isolated in the world.
Fetal SC can be obtained from the fetus of 9-12 weeks’ intrauterine development. This method of obtaining is a major obstacle to the study and clinical use of this type of SC. Legislation in many countries prohibits or greatly restricts scientific research on abortive material for ethical reasons. Even more serious are the legal obstacles to the use of such material in practical medicine, especially in commercial clinics and centers. The decision to donate an embryo to create SC should be made by the donor separately from the abortion decision and should not be rewarded financially, lest it become an inducement to abortion.
Collection of placental cord blood after birth and its cryopreservation seems to be an easier way to obtain SC. Today it is recognized worldwide that the best source for hematopoietic SC is umbilical cord blood. In addition to all medical advantages, cord blood is the cheapest and safest source of SC. However, many cord blood samples have low amounts of SC, so their use may be limited. Obtained blood can be stored in canned form for the benefit of the child and his family (provided to the owners upon request), and as a donor for all needy patients, for experimental and research work (if the parents of the future child before delivery have signed an agreement that they give up all rights to the SC). In the U.S., parents give their baby’s cord blood for storage at 10 percent of delivery, the initial fee for the service is 600 dollars, the storage itself costs from 100 to 2 thousand dollars, depending on the guarantees and conditions of storage.
It is somewhat easier from a legal and financial point of view to get an adult’s SC. Their concentration in an adult organism is highest in the bone marrow, where there are two types of SC: hematopoietic and mesenchymal. Studies on the isolation of SC from bone marrow and blood were initiated in the late 1980s: this progress was largely due to the need for treatment of radiation sickness in the victims of the Chernobyl accident. Bone marrow transplantation was practiced before, but in connection with the Chernobyl disaster in a very short period of time it was necessary to solve the issues of bone marrow storage, isolation of hematopoietic stem cells and their use in clinical practice. Subsequently, this technique was improved and perfected for the isolation of stem cells from peripheral blood after their mobilization – the introduction of special substances stimulating the release of stem cells into the blood.