Number 1 – What are stem cells
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to differentiate and transform into any type of cell of the body when needed. They are capable of repairing, healing and even regenerating the damaged parts. Stem cells can be found in certain body parts including blood, bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord.
Number 2 – Types of stem cells
There are basically 2 types of stem cells on the basis of their origin – Embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
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The embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos that have been fertilized in vitro and then donated to science. These kinds of cells are pluripotent, meaning they can transform into any type of cell of the body.
The adult stem cells can be of two types – one that are taken from fully matured organs and tissues, for example, the liver. The stem cells taken from the liver have the ability to produce new liver cells.
The second type of adult stem cells is called induced pluripotent cells. These cells are made in the laboratory and induced with pluripotent characteristics. Induced pluripotent cells were discovered by scientists in the year 2006.
Number 3 – What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cells can be used to treat diseases and repair injured tissues or organs. The treatment method is known as stem cell therapy. The increasing popularity of stem cell therapy is based on-
- They help understand how the disease progress
- Repair injured tissues/cells (Regenerative medicine)
- It helps test new drugs for safety and effectiveness
Hence, the stem cells are generally taken from either the healthy tissue/organs or can be grown in the labs. They are then transferred into the patient’s body to treat a dysfunctional organ or tissue and promote repair or growth of the healthy organ.
Number 4 – Sources of stem cells
Stem cells are either taken from certain parts of the body “stem cell niche” or cultivated in the laboratory. The organs/sites in the body that comprises stem cells are –
- Adipose tissue-derived (Platelet-rich plasma combination)
- Brain, Liver, Bone Marrow, Blood
Number 5 – Types of stem cell therapy
There are two types of stem cell therapies –
- Autologous stem cell therapy – the patient receives stem cells that are isolated from their own body
- Allogenic stem cell therapy – another individual donates their stem cells to the patient
Usually, autologous stem cell therapy is preferred over allogeneic therapy. This is because with autologous therapy, there are lesser chances of mismatch and immune rejection, hence the recovery rate is much faster and the individual’s healing is much more natural.
Number 6 – Procedure for stem cell therapy
Once that the stem cells are extracted from their site (adipose, brain), they are further processed for enrichment under sterile conditions. These enriched activated stem cells are then injected back into the patient’s body. In general cases, adipose tissue-derived stem cells are of high value, because they are easy to isolate and have a high stem cell density.
For a stem cell transplantation (SCT) in the cases of Leukemia, the patients have to undergo a series of tests. These include –
- Blood group
- History of the previous treatments
- The availability of donor in cases of allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplants (BMT)
Stem cells can be transferred through IV central line, similar to blood transfusion. Stem cell injections are used in some procedures and have gained much popularity as they are relatively painless procedures and save time. The stem cells are usually autologous, devoiding the issues related to rejection by the body.
Number 7 – Processing of stem cells
The stem cells are extracted and processed in clean sterile laboratories, under aseptic conditions in a controlled environment. The precision of the injection at the site of the injury also plays a pivotal role in the outcome of the therapy.
Number 8 – Cost and duration of stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy cost in India varies from patient to patient. There are multiple factors that decide the final cost; namely – the disease which needs to be cured, age, the severity of the disease and the general health condition of the patient.
The duration of the therapy depends on –
- The disease being treated
- Location where stem cells are extracted from
Number 9 – Follow up
It is necessary for the patient undergoing stem cell therapy to maintain a good follow-up schedule for recuperation therapies. The primary aims of these follow-up appointments are to prevent the complications that may arise due to the primary disease, to analyse the recovery and provide psychological guidance to the patients undergoing the therapy (help with mood swings and anxiety issues)
Number 10 – The success rate
Stem cell therapy in India is showing promising results in the treatment of diseases such as blood cancer (leukemia and lymphoma), multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia, as well as other conditions such as autism, orthopedic problems, and skin grafts. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, around 38,000 patients who received stem cell transplants showed significant improvement in their quality of life.
The stem cell therapy is now widely used in treating over 80 serious life-threatening medical conditions including – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Leukemia, Myeloma, and others.
Along with the improved quality of life, the survival rate of the patients receiving stem therapies is also good. On average, post-one-year transplant patients have shown an improvement in their prognosis with an increased survival rate of 48 to 63 percent.