Stem cell therapy has long been a controversial topic in medicine. Many people are against it are angered by the thought of harvesting the cells from undeveloped human embryos.
However, recent scientific advances in the field have shown that adult stem cells also have benefits, meaning we don’t have to gather embryonic cells to create effective medical treatments.
Read on to learn what stem cells really are and how adult stem cell therapy works.
What Are Stem Cells?
Most cell types in the human body replicate by dividing in half. They’re unipotent, meaning they can only create exact replicas of each other. For example, a liver cell can divide into two identical liver cells, but it can’t divide into a liver and skin cell.
Stem cells aren’t bound by those same standards. Unlike unipotent cells, they can change type as they develop. As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of stem cells: embryonic and adult.
Embryonic stem cells are only found in the first 3 to 5 days after fertilization. These cells are pluripotent, meaning they can change into any body cell after receiving the right chemical messages. Once they’ve developed, though, they function like any normal cell and can no longer change type.
Contrary to the name, adult stem cells exist in your body as soon as you’re born. They live in fully developed organs like the heart, blood, kidneys, and brain. They’re what’s called multipotent—an adult blood stem cell can differentiate into different blood cells, for example, but can’t develop into a brain cell.
Why Are Adult Stem Cells Important for Your Health?
Without embryonic stem cells, a fertilized zygote could never turn into a baby. But even after birth, adult stem cells continue to play an important role in your health.
The cells in your body are constantly dying off and being replaced by others. Sometimes this is because of damage from an illness or injury, but it’s often part of their normal life cycle. Blood cells, for example, only last for 28 days.
Adult stem cells work like repair kits in your body. When old cells die, your body sends them a chemical message that tells them what specific type of cell to turn into. This way, your body can recover quickly from its loss.
How Does Adult Stem Cell Therapy Work?
Stem cell therapy is a subset of regenerative medicine, a process that creates new living tissue to fix or replace damaged tissues in the body. It comprises injections from stem cells that come from your own body (autologous) or other sources (allogenic).
Injecting adult stem cells into injured tissue can jumpstart the healing process. It is often used to treat soft tissue injuries in the spine and other joints, arthritis pain, and nerve damage.
The stem cell injection cost varies from clinic to clinic and may not be covered by your insurance plan. But for someone suffering from chronic pain, the benefits can be more than worth it. Sometimes these treatments are even effective enough to help you avoid surgery.
Is Stem Cell Treatment Right for You?
If you suffer from any of the conditions listed above, injection therapy with adult stem cells may provide some relief. Talk to your doctor to find out more about your options for treatment.
For more information on breakthrough therapies and ways to keep yourself healthy, make sure to check out the other posts on our site.