Stem Cells – Separating Facts From Fiction
There are several neurological disorders where stem cell therapy is being tried. Over the years Stem cell therapy has shown results in Parkinsonism, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord injury and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
The very mention of Stem Cell therapy invokes varied reactions from people. The medical fraternity, as well as the common man, have a number of fundamental misunderstandings about Stem Cell Therapy and its benefits. In the jungle of data available out there, more often than not there is misleading and wrong information about this field of study.
Stem cell therapy, in very simple terms, is a non-intrusive process wherein a patient’s own cells are used to repair the damaged or degenerating cells. The procedure involves drawing of the bone marrow, which is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs- multipotent stromal cells that can grow into a variety of cell types). Once the bone marrow is aspirated it is sent to the lab where the MSCs are separated and then the cells are injected back into the patient. All these procedures (aspiration and injection) are painless and are done over a few minutes under strict aseptic conditions. These injected cells migrate to the damaged areas and then multiply to start repairing and rejuvenating the damaged cells.
There are several neurological disorders where stem cell therapy is being tried. Over the years Stem cell therapy has shown results in Parkinsonism, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord injury and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Any new form of treatment or invention is usually met with skepticism during the early stages. Similar is the case with Stem Cell treatments. There are more myths than facts surrounding this field, which makes it difficult for patients to make an informed decision. One of the biggest challenges is to provide patients with the right information about the scope of stem cells. The lack of awareness and the controversies surrounding it has shadowed the immense potential of this treatment.
Here are a few myths around Stem Cell Therapy:
Stem Cells are derived only from Embryos: Stem cells can be harvested from a patient’s body. Embryos are definitely not the only available source. Adult stem cells can be derived from one’s own body.
The body might ‘reject’ stem cells: Since stem cells are derived from the patient’s own body cells, there is no risk of rejection. Adult stem cells are the patient’s own natural cells, therefore the risk of rejection is eliminated.
Stem cells that are banked at birth are the only ones that facilitate later treatments: Umbilical cord blood stem cells can be preserved at birth and can be used for future medical use of the child. However, adult stem cells are now more widely used and it can be safely harvested from a patient’s bone marrow. Adult stem cells can be found throughout the human body and can be used for a variety of treatment options.
Stem Cell therapy requires time for recovery: Patients who undergo stem cell treatment recover much faster than those who undergo an invasive surgery. The procedure takes a couple of hours and the patient can return to work the very next day.
Stem Cell Therapy is unsafe: Since stem cells are derived from one’s own body, the procedure has no risks involved. There is no risk of contracting infections.
Even after years of research, no concrete treatments have been found for degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and neuro degenerative conditions like spinal cord injuries. Stem Cell therapy offers huge improvement in patients suffering from the above mentioned conditions. Since stem cell therapy is a non-invasive, non-surgical method of treatment with no side effects, it can be a promising option that patients can explore. Keeping in mind the lack of awareness about this field, doctors who practice stem cell therapy should educate the patients about the feasibility, protocols and rewards that the therapy will offer.
In spite of the challenges and myths, stem cell therapy is an emerging field that can positively impact many patients. Over the last two decades, there has been noteworthy research in the field of stem cells. With continued research, stem cell can unlock significant breakthroughs in the field of medicine
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