An introduction to Stem Cells

bone marrowWhat are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are cells that have not yet developed into specialized cells. They have the ability to differentiate, meaning that they can become cells of any organ of the body. They can also multiply to create new stem cells.  Stem cells are generated in the bone marrow but are also present in our blood, as they are released from the bone marrow to the blood system.

How do they work?

The ability of stem cells to regenerate and heal within our own bodies has been underestimated over the years, but through using Green Fluorescent Protein, found in deep see jellyfish, scientists were able to literally track stem cells to see just how they worked. Researchers discovered that if there is an injury in the body or part of the body isn’t working properly, it sends a message to the bone marrow to release extra stem cells. The damaged body part releases molecules that attract the stem cells to it, causing the stem cells to travel to the affected tissue, where they differentiate to become new healthy cells, repairing the damaged tissue.

What does this mean for us?

Understanding how stem cells work to become almost any cell in our body means that we can manipulate them to treat specific conditions. Increasing the flow of stem cells through the body can help to prevent or reverse degenerative conditions; the extra supply of stem cells  allows them to target damaged tissue, enabling them to become, say, liver cells, heart cells or lung cells.

This means that conditions that are currently controlled through the use of drugs can actually be cured by our own stem cells, with a little bit of help from us!

What kind of stem cells do we use?

There are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and adult stem cells. We use a kind of adult stem cell called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These are found in bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue and recent research shows that MSCs don’t only have the potential to differentiate into bone and fat cells, but also help form ligament, tendon and connective tissues as well as possessing the ability to become neurons, heart cells, liver cells, pancreatic cells, and lung cells.

This discovery has already changed the way in which many ailments are viewed; stem cell application has successfully been used to treat osteoarthritis, COPD, heart conditions, diabetes and much more. The potential of stem cells to relieve or reverse previously incurable diseases is literally changing the face of medicine today and we are proud to be at the forefront of this exciting new world.

If you would like to find out more about our patient funded stem cell research projects please contact us and speak to a trained specialist case worker.

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