Stem Cells: The Future of Wellness and Medicine

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To explain stem cells in the simplest way possible, you could say they are “default cells.” Stem cells are cells from which all other cells in our body originate.

As stem cells divide, their “daughter” cells can be new stem cells, and they can also become cells with specialized functions. 

Potentially, each cell that originates from a stem cell can become a red blood cell, a bone cell, or any other. This property of stem cells makes them a focus of many scientific studies.

There are tremendous applications for stem cells in medicine if we could master the way they differentiate and the ways our body distributes them. They can be the key to many cures, from cancer to bone and muscle healing.

Medicine already uses stem cells as treatment, and they can also provide medical scientists with precious insight into how diseases develop and function.

In the future, we can expect many new applications of stem cells. 

For now, let’s learn more about what they are and what their medicinal uses are.

How Many Types of Stem Cells Are There?

There are 3 main types of stem cells:

  • embryonic
  • adult (amniotic and cord-blood)
  • induced pluripotent

There are other classifications of stem cells, as well. For now, we’ll use this simple one.

Embryonic stem cells

As the name suggests, these cells are harvested from lab-developed human embryos, usually in the process of IVF. 

During this process, within 5 days after fertilization, human embryos reach the phase of a blastocyst. This means they consist of up to 150 cells and they have already formed blastocysts. 

These blastocysts have an inner cell mass that is powerful material for treatment development. These cells are pluripotent, which roughly means they can develop into any sort of cell. 

However, even with the amazing potential they have, embryonic cells are not widely used in therapy due to ethical reasons.

The extraction of the inner cell mass destroys the embryo. Even if it is a pre-implantation embryo, the question of ethics still stands.

Adult stem cells

This type of stem cell is also called a somatic or tissue-specific stem cell. They are created during the development of the fetus and they remain in the form of stem cells throughout your lifetime. 

They are not as versatile as the embryo stem cells, but they have significant self-renewal properties. It is possible to find them in bone marrow, skin, heart, brain, and liver. It is, for the most part, the type of cell that stem cell treatments involve.

Adult stem cells also include amniotic and cord blood stem cells. Scientists harvest these two types of stem cells from the amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord respectively. These stem cells are not pluripotent, but multipotent. 

This still makes them extremely valuable, especially because their harvesting is not as problematic as it is with the embryo cells. There is a lot of research in place about the potential of amniotic and cord blood stem cells.

Induced pluripotent stem cells. This is, perhaps, the most promising type of stem cell when it comes to availability and potential. These are lab-made pluripotent cells. They are still not used in therapies, but scientists are hoping to utilize them in the near future.

What Are Stem Cells Used For?

The most common stem cell therapy is for bone marrow transplants. This treatment helps patients suffering from different blood cancers, especially leukemia.

It is important to check the FDA website for the approved stem cell treatments since not everything available on the market is FDA approved. There are many clinical trials going on at this moment, also.

What Does the Future Hold for Stem Cell Therapy?

There is no limit to the potential of stem cell treatments. Medical experts are exploring many new ways of using them.

Bone marrow transplants have made people consider whether stem cells could treat autoimmune diseases or even tolerate transplanted organs. Here are some of the exciting ideas about possible stem cell uses.

Stem Cells as Anti-Aging Treatment

As we age structural changes occur and cells’ functions slowly reduce. Among the first functions to diminish are regeneration and repair. That is why these are the first signs of aging. As these cells in our tissues stop regenerating, we begin to age. 

Because of this fact, there is a good reason to believe that stem cell infusion or replenishment could have anti-aging effects

Treat Neurological Problems

Potentially, these cells could replace damaged neurons. If this happens, it could be a possible treatment option for many neurological disorders.

Most of them, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, create irreparable damage to neurons. If we could repair those neurons, it could slow down or even entirely stop the progress of such diseases.

Regenerate Tissues Damaged by Arthritis

Arthritis involves degeneration of joints by loss of cartilage in them. The idea behind the stem cell treatment for arthritis is to infuse them into the area and let them repair or regrow the missing cartilage. 

At this point, this is not possible, although some clinics have limited success in treating patients with stem cells. This field needs further research, for the treatment to be safe and effective.

Re-Create the Insulin Production System for Diabetics

There is hope that stem cells could turn into insulin-producing cells. These are called beta cells. If this were to happen, it would mean a revolutionary therapy for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. 

Replicate Organs that Need Replacement

There are stem cells in the heart. One of the potentials of stem cell therapy would be to engage these cells to repair damage caused by a heart attack. Organs such as the liver and kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs. 

There is hope that stem cell therapy could repair the damaged organs and eliminate the need for transplantation.

Furthermore, using stem cells to regrow entire organs is something we might see in the far future. 

They have immense potential and they have tremendous benefits for our bodies. You don’t have to suffer from a certain condition to experience the effects of rejuvenating cells.

They can rejuvenate your skin, repair your joints and help your body stay young.

Stems Cells and Red Light Therapy

Stem cells are sensitive to near-infrared light, so red light therapy is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the stem cells in your body

When exposed to red light therapy (RLT), stem cells have increased cell migration. Their ability to differentiate and proliferate also improves, as well as their viability.

Last but not least, when treated with RLT, stem cells show prominent protein expression.

In other words, red light therapy works in synergy with stem cell therapy to improve your health and wellness. Here are just some of the things that red light therapy does:

Improve the Success Rate of Stem Cells Treatments

When stem cells are not yet differated, they show lower levels of proliferation. This is one of the factors why stem cell therapies don’t always work. 

The studies showed that stem cells that originate in the dental pulp, ligaments, bone marrow, and adipose tissue proliferate at a better rate when they are exposed to red light therapy. 

Help Stem Cells Boost Your Cognitive Function

There are studies that show that exposure to red light can stimulate a certain type of stem cell and facilitate their infiltration into the brain, boosting cognitive abilities. Consequently, red light therapy could supplement stem cell therapy in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Assists in Repairing the Damage Caused by Heart Failure

Stem cells derived from the bone marrow could increase the proliferation of c-kit-positive cells from the skull bone marrow. This is important because it is the c-kit-positive cells that have a crucial role in regenerating damaged tissue.

C-kit-positive cells are a part of the repair process after heart failure damage occurs.

Promotes Stem Cell Induced Hair Growth

Restoring hair growth is an interesting topic both for those that are coming to an age when their hair weakens, and there are those that have lost their hair due to medical reasons.

There are some research results hinting that photobiomodulation is able to trigger the follicular stem cells to differentiate and proliferate. This would mean that it would be possible to induce new hair growth.

Advances the Research for Stem Cell Use in Dentistry

Dentin is the tissue that lies right under the teeth enamel. If we were able to regenerate dentin, that would mean a revolutionary new way to repair teeth. It would eliminate the need for root canal interventions. 

One possible way to achieve this is to trigger human dental cells to create dentin. Praveen Arany, DDS, Ph.D., experimented by drilling holes in rodent molars, filling those holes with stem-cell pulp, and treating it with photobiomodulation.

Within 12 weeks, dentin started forming prominently in those teeth that were treated with red light therapy.

Both red light therapy and stem cell therapy are promising new treatment options. Each of them has immense potential which doubles when they are combined.

The future holds many new discoveries in the field of medical science, and stem cell and red light therapy will definitely be big players in that progress.

Discover what else red light therapy does for your health and wellness.

More resources:

Special Issue on Stem Cells and Photobiomodulation Therapy  

Researchers use light to coax stem cells to regrow teeth