Regenerative Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy as the Future of Medicine
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services1, regenerative medicine "has the potential to develop therapies for previously untreatable diseases and conditions . . . [including] diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, osteoporosis, and spinal cord injuries.”
When you encounter an illness or sustain an injury, your body tissues can be damaged. For example, osteoporosis may have weakened your bones, or you may have damaged your spinal cord in a car accident. In regenerative medicine, stem cells are used to rebuild or repair these damaged tissues in the human body.
Stems cells used in regenerative medicine may come from an anonymous donor (allogenic sources). Allogenic cells are not a genetic match to the patient. It is important to note that the rate of success of stem cell therapy is increased if the stem cells used in the procedure come from autologous or allogenic related sources, meaning the stem cells come from the patient or from the sibling of the patient. These cells may have been collected from the patient's (or a sibling's) umbilical cord at the time of birth and stored in a cord blood bank. Because these cells are genetically similar to the patient's cells, the risk of the patient's body rejecting the treatment is decreased. It is for this reason that many expectant parents decide to collect and store the stem cells in their children's umbilical cord blood.
Regenerative medicine is the next step for the medical world, and new stem cell therapies are emerging to treat conditions and disorders as research progresses around the globe. One example of exciting advances in regenerative medicine is in the field of osteoporosis treatment. In 2012, researchers determined that one specific cell found in umbilical cord blood was able to reverse osteoporosis in their test subjects (mice)2. This holds promise for the treatment, and ultimate cure, of osteoporosis as science makes strides in the field of regenerative medicine.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006). 2020: A new vision: A future for regenerative medicine. Retrieved from http://medicine.osu.edu/regenerativemedicine/documents/2020vision.pdf
2. Aggarwal, R., Lu, J., Kanji, S., Joseph, M., Das, M., Noble, G. J., . . . Das, H. (2012). Human umbilical cord blood-derived CD34+ cells reverse osteoporosis in NOD/SCID mice by altering osteoblastic and osteoclastic activities. PLoS One, 7(6). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039365