Stem cell therapy is essentially the use of various stem cells to prevent or treat various conditions. The stem cells used can be harvested from the patient’s bone marrow, peripheral blood, umbilical cord blood and or from a donor.
Although the immense healing properties of stem cells have been known for decades, currently very few stem cell treatments have been proven to be effective and safe.
Hematopoietic Stem Cell transplantation
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (generally known as bone marrow transplant) involves infusing through an IV line multipotent hematopoietic stem cells that have been harvested from the peripheral blood, bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood. The therapy aims to restore hematopoietic function in patients whose immune system or bone marrow is defective or damaged.
The stem cells used can be collected from the patient (autologous stem cells) or from a donor (allogenic stem cells). Traditionally, bone marrow stem cells have been used for this procedure, however, peripheral blood stem cells are now preferred for many transplantations.
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is often performed as part of therapy to correct congenital immunodeficiency disorders and to eliminate cancerous processes that affect the bone marrow, such as leukemia.
In addition, stem cell therapy is actively used in cancer care. It allows patients with cancer to receive much higher doses of chemotherapy than the bone marrow could usually tolerate. After receiving high doses of chemotherapy, the function of the bone marrow is salvaged by replacing the marrow with stem cells that have been previously harvested.
Indications for Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy
Autologous stem cells transplantation is used to treat the following conditions:
Acute myeloid leukemia
Germ cell tumors
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Allogenic stem cells transplantation is used to treat the following disorders:
Acute myeloid leukemia
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Chronic myeloid leukemia
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Pure red-cell aplasia
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria
Thalassemia major - 80% disease-free survival rate
Sickle cell anemia - potentially curable
Leukocyte adhesion deficiency
Severe combined immunodeficiency
Severe congenital Neutropenia
Inborn errors of metabolism
*Although controversial, Hematopoietic Stem Cell therapy has shown potential to be effective in the treatment of breast cancer. It has also been successfully used to achieve disease-free survival in patients with severe testicular cancer.
Prochymal Stem Cell Therapy
This innovative stem cell therapy was patented by Osiris Therapeutics. The stem cell therapy uses mesenchymal stem cells derived from the bone marrow of adult donors to treat graft versus host disease.
The graft versus host disease is a life-threatening complication that occurs in approximately 50% of all patients who receive a hematopoietic stem cell transplant with donated stem cells. Essentially the when immune cells from the donor attack the patient’s cells because they are viewed as foreign. This immunological attack mainly affects the patient’s skin, gastrointestinal system, and liver.
The stem cell therapy has shown very good results in clinical trials and is now an approved treatment for graft versus host disease in Canada.
Stem Cell Therapy for Corneal Regeneration
The cornea is the transparent layer that sits on the exterior part of the eye. It plays an essential role in conducting light into the eyes and protecting intraocular structures. Due to its positioning, the cornea faces external and internal threats, such as infectious pathogens, chemical burn, thermal injury, ocular pemphigoid , Stevens Johnson syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.
Stem cell therapy can now be used to repair severely damaged cornea and restore vision to patients. To repair the damaged cornea, stem cells are collected from the patient’s limbus (an area of the eye). These limbal stem cells are then multiplied in a laboratory and then transplanted back into the patient’s damaged eyes.
It is important to note that limbal stem cells therapy can only help patients who have some undamaged limbal stem cells remaining in at least one of their eyes. These stem cells cannot be obtained from a donor and then transplanted to the patient as the risk of rejection is extremely high and can lead to total blindness.
However, the fairly new treatment has been proven to effective and safe in clinical trials and is now approved for widespread treatment in Europe.
Stem cell Therapy for Skin Transplant
Skin stem cells have been used since the 1980s to artificially grow sheets of new skin in the laboratory for severe burn patients.
There are numerous types of skin grafts that are currently being created. However, the technology only allows for the creation of new skin that has no sweat gland, hair follicles or sebaceous gland.
While the technique is still far from perfect, these skin stem cells products are essential for saving the lives of patients that have suffered from third-degree burns on extended areas of their bodies.
Some of these products are also used to successfully treat chronic skin wounds that are difficult to treat with conventional therapy, such as venous ulcers, diabetic ulcers, and deep acute wounds.
According to Doctor Mountre, although skin stem cells transplant has been around for many years, only a few clinics use these artificial skin grafts. Instead, research is currently trying to go beyond skin grafts and properly use the healing properties of stem cells for healing wounds.
Currently, numerous clinical trials are underway for using stem cell therapy for treating:
Brain and spinal cord injury
Joint and muscle Repair
Pancreatic beta cell (for treating diabetes)
Regeneration of cardiac and vascular cells
Last update 16th of October 2018