Imagine a world where victims of spinal cord injuries can walk, where there are no shortages of organs for those in need of an organ transplant, where diabetes is no longer treated with insulin shots but cured by implanting insulin producing pancreatic islets grown from the individual’s own stem cells.  Such is the promise of stem cell based regenerative medicine as envisioned by both the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services).

According to the HHS, “This revolutionary technology has the potential to develop therapies forpreviously untreatable diseases and conditions. Examples of diseases regenerative medicine can cure include: diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, osteoporosis, and spinal cord injuries. Virtually any disease that results from malfunctioning, damaged, or failing tissues may be potentially cured through regenerative medicine therapies.” The future of regenerative medicine is now, as we are witnessing organ transplants with organs built entirely from a person’s own stem cells.  Recently, doctors replaced a patient’s cancerous windpipe with one grown from his own stem cells – not a donor’s.

Regenerated trachea using autologous stem cells

In addition, there is research being done to develop stem cell therapies in order to treat disease and trauma such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, joint replacement, genetic diseases and many more.

So what is Regenerative Medicine?    According to the NIH, “Regenerative Medicine is the process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace organ function lost due to age, disease, damage or congenital defects.” This process is what is being and will continue to be used in order to regenerate damaged tissues and organs from stem cells as well as use stem cells to reprogram tissues and organs that are not functioning properly. Simply put, regenerative medicine utilizes stem cells, the body’s own natural repair and maintenance mechanisms, to address disease and trauma.

Stem cells are unique because they drive the natural healing process throughout your life. Stem cells are different from other cells in the body because they regenerate and produce specialized cell types. They heal and restore skin, bones, cartilage, muscles, nerves and other tissues when injured. There are two main types of stem cells: adult stem cells, such as those found in bone marrow and teeth and embryonic stem cells

Adult stem cells [ASC] are unspecialized cells found throughout the body.  Common sources of adult stem cells are cord blood, bone marrow, teeth and adipose.  These cells have the ability to regenerate and ‘differentiate’ into specialized cells to replenish dying cells and replace damaged tissues.  Research into adult stem cells has been fueled by their ability to divide or self-renew indefinitely and generate all the cell types of the organ from which they originate — potentially regenerating the entire organ from a few cells.  Some adult stem cells have the ability to ‘trans-differentiate’ into tissue and organs other than those from which they are derived.  Additionally, adult stem cell therapies are of great interest as it is possible to utilize stem cells from the patient [autologous stem cells] virtually eliminating the need for immune suppression drugs following implantation.  The use of adult stem cells is not controversial as the recovery and cultivation of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of an embryo as is the case with embryonic stem cells.  However, unlike ‘pluripotent’ embryonic stem cells – which can differentiate into all the cell types of the body, adult stem cells do have limitations in their ability to become cell types dependent on their origin and degree of specialization hence, they are considered ‘multipotent.’

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells derived from the undifferentiated inner mass cells of a human embryo.  Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they are able to grow (i.e.

differentiate) into all derivatives of the three primary germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm.  In other words, they can develop into each of the more than 200 cell types of the adult body as long as they are specified to do so.  The recovery and cultivation of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of the embryo which has fueled controversy.

This brief overview of stem cells and regenerative medicine is brought to you as a public service of StemSave.   StemSave is a private stem cell banking company that enables individuals and families to recover and bank their valuable and unique stem cells conveniently and affordably by recovering the stem cells found in baby teeth, wisdom teeth and healthy permanent teeth as an adjunct to routine dental procedures.   For information on banking your own stem cells, go to www.stemsave.com

For More Information on Stem Cells

For a more detailed discussion of stem cells, see the NIH’s Stem Cell Reports.

Other websites containing information about stem cells are below.  StemSave is not affiliated with these websites and not responsible for the content of these sites.

http://www.isscr.org/public  Stem cell information for the public from the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR).

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/stemcells.html  Medline Plus is a consumer health database that includes news, health resources, clinical trials, and more.

http://www.explorestemcells.co.uk   A United Kingdom–based resource for the general public that discusses the use of stem cells in medical treatments and therapies.

http://clinicaltrials.gov/ worldwide database for the public pertaining to clinical trials