Stem cell is an undifferentiated cell in the body that is able to develop into any one of various kinds of cells. Stem cells have the ability to repair damaged tissues or regenerate tissues and replace parts of body.
Stem cell therapy & Regenerative Medicine is a great revolution in the field of medical science that has given new dimensions to treatment of debilitating diseases.
Successful clinical trials of stem cell therapy have paved the path of its availability for general population world over. Now it is being offered for treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes mellitus, Parkinsonism, multiple sclerosis and many other diseases. It is a future forecast that stem cell therapy will replace most of the conventional treatments.
Different Sources of Stem Cells
Where there is no doubt about its effectiveness in curing grave diseases, ethical issues still surround it due to sources of stem cells from which these are obtained.
Some sources of stem cells are acceptable in the society and have no ethical issues (stem cells obtained from cord blood) while use of other sources of stem cell create ethical problems and are not acceptable widely despite of their effectiveness. Different sources of stem cells are mention below
- Bone Marrow
- Umbilical Cord Blood
- Fetal Tissue
- Amniotic Fluid
Bone marrow of children, adults and elderly are a rich source of hematopoitic stem cells which can be used to treat a number of blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma) and other hematological diseases.
Bone marrow transplantation using hematopoitic stem cells of the patient, relative or any other HLA-matched donor is already in practice for many decades. Stem cells achieved from bone marrow has narrow potential of differentiation and only blood cells and some other cells can be formed by using these cells. No ethical issue is involved in using bone marrow as a source of stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells are extracted from the patient’s own adipose (fat) tissue and processed to prepare a cell suspension for injection back in the patient. Adipose (Fat-Derived) Stem Cell Procedure is much easier and less invasive than performing a bone marrow extraction.
In addition, adipose tissue contains much larger volumes of Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) than does bone marrow. The use of autologous (your own) stem cells has no ethical or moral issues and there is no possibility for rejection.
Venous (Blood-Derived) Stem Cell treatment is performed if the patient does not qualify for adipose treatment. This procedure is less invasive compared to the adipose procedure and is a viable option for many patients with COPD. Venous stem cell treatment is also autologus from patient’s own body.
Umbilical Cord Blood
Umbilical cord and placenta are by-products of birth which are discarded after the baby is delivered but blood contained in these structures is a rich source of stem cells. This is the reason cord blood is collected and stored in cord blood banks in many countries of the world including United States.
Cord blood is excellent source of stem cells as nothing unethical is linked to it because by collecting this blood does not cause any harm to the baby. There is no confusion and conflict about use of umbilical cord blood in any social set up and it is being used to treat more than 170 different diseases.
The experience of stem cell therapy by using cord blood is very successful; Diabetes mellitus, Parkinsonism, multiple sclerosis, stroke, myocardial infarction and many neurodegenerative diseases are being treated by using cord blood.
Human Embryos (Pre-Implantation)
Human embryos at earlier stages (before implantation into uterus) contain cells which are master cells and have ability to differentiate into any cell types. Embryonic stem cells are achieved from human embryos before the age of 4 days. Embryos used for this purpose are those which are used for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Embryonic cells are separated from inner cell mass of the embryo and cultured to produce more cells. Obtaining stem cells from embryos involve destroying human embryos so it is not a very popular source of stem cells. A number of ethical issues are related to it.
National institute of health has not allowed this practice and despite of its effectiveness as a source of stem cells, it is not acceptable in most of the societies.
Aborted fetus is another rich source of stem cells which can be used for regenerative purposes. Stem cells are present in every organ of the fetus and are superior to those obtained from blood or bone marrow of an adult as fetal cells are pluripotent (can differentiate into any cell type).
Fetal stem cells have greater dividing potential as well which means that each fetal cell will divide more times to get more and more new cells. Although stem cells are collected from aborted fetuses with the consent of mother but still this source is not recognized as an ethical practice.
Amniotic fluid is the fluid present inside fetal membranes that protect fetus from trauma inside the uterus. Scientists have found that cells present in the amniotic fluid have potential to be used as stem cells. This source of stem cells doesn’t carry any ethical issue but obtaining cells from amniotic fluid is still experimental and carry a lot of practical difficulties.
Stem cells can be extracted from your own Bone Marrow, Fat, and Peripheral Blood (Autologous) or Umbilical Cord Blood, Embryo, Fetal Tissue and Amniotic Fluid.
Overview of different sources of stem cells highlights the vices and virtues of each. Two things are of paramount importance while considering a source for stem cells: number one is its effectiveness and number two is its ethical stand point. The best source of stem cell is one which is both effective and ethically allowed.
Embryonic stem cells and fetal stem cells are no doubt very good source of stem cells but at the same time both sources are not acceptable by the society due to ethical issues. When we consider umbilical cord blood as a source of stem cells we find it equally effective to embryonic stem cells but with the advantage of its being fully ethical with no resistance in society. To date umbilical cord blood stands as a 100% ethical and effective source of stem cells and it is being used to treat around 170 diseases worldwide.
Mexico is among the top rated cities where experience with stem cell therapy is extremely successful and now our hospitals in Tijuana and Guadalajara are offering stem cell therapy using cord blood to treat COPD, Diabetes Mellitus, Parkinsonism, Multiple Sclerosis and many other diseases.