What are stem cells?
Stem cells are defined by two properties. Firstly, they can ‘self-renew’, that is they can divide and give rise to more stem cells of the same kind. Secondly, they can mature or ‘differentiate’ into specialized cells that carry out a specific function, such as in the skin, muscle, or blood.
There are many different types of stem cells. These include embryonic stem cells that exist only at the earliest stages of development; and various types of ‘tissue-specific’ stem cells (sometimes referred to as ‘adult’ or ‘somatic’ stem cells) that are found in various tissues in our bodies. Recently, cells with properties similar to embryonic stem cells, referred to as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), have been engineered from specialized cells such as skin cells.
What is stem cell therapy?
A stem cell therapy is a treatment that uses stem cells, or cells that come from stem cells, to replace or to repair a patient’s cells or tissues that are damaged. The stem cells might be put into the blood, or transplanted into the damaged tissue directly, or even recruited from the patient’s own tissues for self-repair.
What stem cells do you use to treat patients?
As a matter of fact, there are many different types of stem cells which are applicable for different types of conditions. Here it is most important to differ between blood-forming and non-blood forming stem cells. Blood forming stem cells are typically administered by IV (Intra Vascular Injection) and enter the body via the cardiovascular system. They find their use in various treatments for conditions to the body, e.g. Diabetes, treatment for Renal function or treatment for Kidney function. Examples of blood-forming stem cells are autologous stem cells or mesenchymal stem cells. Separate from the cardio vascular system is the central nervous system. The central nervous system is completely separated from the rest of the body, and is completely constructed out of non-blood forming cells, so in order to guarantee a safe treatment, only non-blood forming stem cells are applicable for treatment. Treatment for all neurological conditions (e.g. Parkinson's, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis) fall into this category. The preferred type of stem cells here are so-called Nervous Progenitor Cells, typically derived from fetal stem cell sources.