Stem cell therapy has been in use for decades to facilitate the healing of different medical conditions. Stem cell therapy is a regenerative medicine that involves the use of stem cells to promote the repair of damaged or injured tissues in the body.
About 50,000 stem cell transplants are performed every year. The number of stem cell transplant keeps increasing every year.
What is Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is the use of stem cells to promote the repair response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissues. Stem cells are specialized cells that can grow into any type of cells such as blood cells, nerve cells, bone cells, brain cells, or heart muscle cells.
Stem cells are implanted or injected into specific areas of the body to promote the healing of the tissues in the areas. If for example, an individual have a heart disease, stem cells are injected into the heart muscles to promote the repair and healing of the heart muscles.
Stem cells can be harvested from embryos, adult tissues, adult cells, bone marrow, fats, and amniotic fluids. Stem cells are harvested from these different substances and manipulated in a lab to form specialized cells. Stem cells divide and form more cells known as daughter cells. These daughter cells either become new stem cells or specialized cells with more specific functions. Only stem cells have the natural abilities to generate new cells.
Stem Cell Therapy Procedure
Stem cell therapy is a relatively safe procedure because the stem cells are harvested from your own body. Stem cells can be harvested from your bone marrow, tissues, or fat. Most stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow because the bone marrow contains a variety of important cells.
Cells are harvested from your bone marrow and placed into a centrifuged to separate the stem cells. The stem cells are collected and injected into the affected site using live x-ray guidance or ultrasound guidance.
You will be given local anesthesia before the injection to prevent pain and make you feel more comfortable. The concentration of stem cells is injected deep into the damaged or injured tissue to increase the chances of improvements.
The procedure takes about 2-3 hours to be completed. You can go back home on your own after the procedure. You can return to work within a couple of days.
What is the importance of stem cell therapy?
Stem cell is a regenerative medicine that provides improvements to a variety of medical conditions including non-healing wounds, burns, and radiation injuries. Stem cells are able to regenerate and repair damaged tissues in the entire body.
Stem cell therapy is now a weapon to fight against certain blood cancers including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and leukemia.
A lot of people can now live longer after having stem cell transplants. More than 20,000 people are able to live five years or longer than they would have lived after having stem cell transplants.
What happens during the stem cell transplant process?
Stem cells can be harvested from your own bone marrow or blood. It can also be taken from a donor. It is best to use your own stem cells taking from your bone marrow or blood. However, in some cases, donor stem cells may be required. In such a situation, your doctor will need to find a matching donor.
Before having a stem cell transplant, you will first need to have chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The chemotherapy or radiation therapy is used to kill the cancer cells and destroy all the damaged stem cells so that new healthy stem cells can grow and take over the tissue.
Before the stem cell is harvested, you or the donor will first be given injections of special medications four or five days. These medications move blood-forming stem cells from the bone marrow into the bloodstream.
Your doctor will then draw blood with blood-forming stem cells from the bloodstream. The stem cells will then be separated from the rest of the blood using a centrifuge and frozen.
After the stem cells have been taken, you will then be given a “conditioning treatment.” A conditioning treatment is either a high or low-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The purpose of the conditioning treatment is to kill the cancer cells and also destroy your own stem cells. It may also destroy your immune system in the process. When the cancer cells are destroyed, the transplanted stem cells can then grow and take over the tissue.
During the Stem Cell Transplant
During the stem cell transplant, you will be made to sit on a comfortable chair. You will be given an infusion of the stem cells and this can take several hours. The infusion will be given through a surgical port in your neck. You will be given local anesthesia to relieve pain and make you feel comfortable during the infusion. If you receive the stem cell from a donor, you will be given antibiotics and anti-rejection drugs in order to help your body accept the donor stem cells.
During the infusion, nurses will monitor you to make sure you are not developing a fever, chills, or have a drop in blood pressure. You may feel headache, nausea, flushing or shortness of breath which will go away after some time.
After the Stem Cell Transplant
After you have received the stem cells, your new immune system starts to work. New stem cells graft to your bone marrow after two to four weeks and start to make new white blood cells. Your body will then start making platelets and then red blood cells.
Make sure you stay in an environment that is germ-free for the first few weeks. You will probably stay in the hospital for about a month if you had a donor transplant. During this period, your new immune system will start working before you are allowed to go home. Your environment should be air-filtered and all your visitors must wear face masks.
You will need to make regular visits to your clinic or doctor for checkups. Your blood or bone marrow will be tested for levels of healthy blood cells.
Is it painful to have stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is generally a less painful procedure. Your will be given local anesthesia when the stem cell is been infused into your body to prevent pain and make you feel comfortable. You may feel minor pains at the injection site after the infusion or temporarily increased pain that goes away after a short time.
How long does a stem cell transplant procedure take?
It can take several hours for the stem cell to completely infuse into your body. Right from the process of harvesting the stem cells to the transplant can take even longer hours.
Does stem cell therapy really work?
Stem cell therapy has proved to be effective and beneficial for the treatment of medical conditions and diseases. However, all other applications of stem cells are yet to be proven in clinical trials and should be considered experimental.
How long does stem cell therapy last?
After a stem cell transplant, the new stem cells continue to generate and form new cells. How long stem cell therapy last varies, depending on the condition that was treated. Stem cell therapy can last anywhere from 6 months to several years.