Every tissue and organ in the human body is built from stem cells. Many different types of stem cells not only come from specific parts of the body but are formed at different stages of human development.
All stem cells can change (differentiate) from one type to another. They also divide to create more cells of that type, a copying process called self-renewal.
Humans and other mammals have two distinct kinds of stem cells:
1. Embryonic stem cells exist only at the earliest stages of human development. They are obtained from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, “a mainly hollow ball of cells that, in the human, forms three to five days after an egg cell is fertilized by a sperm.”
Think of the embryonic stem cell as a blank “wildcard” tile in a Scrabble game. These undifferentiated cells become specialized cells that perform specific duties. Embryonic stem cells are the foundation from which the entire body is composed, and a “renewable resource for studying normal development and disease, and for testing drugs and other therapies.”
2. Adult (tissue-specific) stem cells are post-embryonic, created during fetal development and remain in our bodies the rest of our lives. Their self-renewal takes the form of the cell types for the specific tissue or organ where they are found.
Bone marrow stem cells can give rise to red and white blood cells and platelets, but not kidney or brain cells – and vice versa. Adult stem cells keep it in the neighborhood, so to speak.
Adult stem cells act in concert with progenitor cells to replenish and repair tissues. Remarkably, according to Wikipedia:
“In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells — ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm…but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues.”
Because stem cells can regenerate themselves, researchers are exploring their many uses for treating diseases ranging from diabetes to heart disease.
Today, stem cells can be grown artificially and differentiated into specialized cell types.
Stem cell therapy is called regenerative medicine. It takes organ transplantation to the next level by allowing a damaged organ or tissue to repair itself through self-replication.
The Mayo Clinic says that lab-grown stem cells can be “manipulated to specialize into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. The specialized cells can then be implanted into a person.”
Incredibly, research has proved that “adult bone marrow cells guided to become heart-like cells can repair heart tissue in people.” This procedure is known as bone marrow transplantation.
What’s more, as reported by the Men’s Journal, a group of 147 physicians who comprise the Cell Surgical Network (CSN) “believe they can treat and likely ameliorate almost any degenerative disease simply by taking stem cells extracted from a patient’s fat and injecting them back into his bloodstream.”
The safest, least expensive and most accessible source for adult stem cells is to harvest them from one’s own body. Some people store them for future use, much like a blood bank.
Adult stem cells can be taken from drilling into bone marrow, liposuction of adipose (fatty) tissue, and blood extraction (apheresis). A newborn baby’s umbilical cord is another source of stem cells.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved stem cell therapy. Recently, in March 2018, the FDA announced a policy reversal, from their stand against unproven stem cell procedures. Now they say they want “to help expedite the development of stem cell therapies proved to be safe and effective,” according to CNN. A paper published by the FDA informs:
“Our aim is to refashion our traditional tools for regulation to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by such highly innovative products as cell-based regenerative medicine.”
Because the FDA has opposed stem cell therapy until this year, other countries have filled the void, appealing to Americans who are seeking treatment now. A company called Regenexx has physician points-of-service in the U.S., but operates out of the Cayman Islands. They advertise:
“The goal is to deliver much greater numbers of stem cells to the injured area than your body can deliver on its own.”
In addition to their patented “Same Day Stem Cell Protocol (USA & International), Regenexx offers a cultured stem cell procedure that is only available in the Caymans.
International acting star Mel Gibson has shared with the world the story of his father Hutton Gibson who “was successfully treated with adult stem cell therapy at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama” and, per CordBlood Aware, “saw huge improvements to his health including kidney function.”
While stem cell research might be considered still in its infancy, keep your eye on this promising new alternative therapy. Organ regeneration rather than replacement (through transplant) opens a host of healing opportunities.