The world keeps changing, and these changes are led by innovation. Nowadays when we hear the word innovation, often we think about business, commerce or money. However for some people innovation is synonymous for hope. The greatest innovators got their ideas from their passion for helping others. They have in their mind an image of a better world. In the medical sector doctors, scientists and researchers are very surprised about the huge progress made in the last 20 years. We are able to treat diseases which we were not able to treat in the past, for instance AIDS, Smallpox, Poliomyelitis and some forms of cancer can now be treated thanks to medical progress.
In recent years, there has been a revolution in the medical world called stem cells therapy. What are the stem cells? According the National Institute of Health (NIH) of U.S, “Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell”.
This means that with stem cells it is possible to rebuild parts or micro-parts of our body which are affected by serious diseases. This kind of treatment is still developing, however it can already treat diseases and conditions of the blood, immune system, grow skin grafts for patients with burns or repair damage to the cornea of the eyes.
The list of the diseases which can be treated using the stem cells therapy is very long, however we are going to describe some progress in this treatment related with diseases which affect the body's ability to move.
Multiple sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance. In the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon (2018), the results of an important trial with multiple sclerosis patients were presented. The trial took in consideration two group of patients, the first group was treated with drug therapy and the second group was treated with haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). The results of the trial are very encouraging:
- After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group;
- After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group;
The conclusion of this trial is that the stem cell transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group. Watch the video and see testimonies of patients.
Spinal Cord Injury: This kind of problem occurs when the spinal cord becomes damaged by a vertebrae fracture or transection of the spinal cord. The spinal cord transmits information between the brain and the rest of the body. If this link gets interrupted, the patient isn’t be able to move a part or all the body. Research shows that stem cells are able to regenerate injured spinal cord. The main result of this research are:
- Direct intramedullary injection to the injured spinal cord site in subacute phase is most effective;
- The bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells are the best candidate cells for the therapy;
- The use of diffusion tensor imaging visualizing white matter tract can be a significant alternative option to identify neuronal regeneration.
Muscular dystrophy: This is a disease which affects the skeletal muscles and often the heart muscle as well. This disease makes the muscle weak, and sometimes results in progressive muscle wasting. The worst form of this disease is the Duchenne muscular dystrophy( DMD ) caused when the body is not able to produce enough dystrophin, which is a protein that makes the muscles strong and not easy to damage. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation says: "there is hope that stem cells will someday provide a viable treatment option. Scientists have identified different muscle forming stem cells in skeletal muscle, bone marrow, blood, fat, and other tissues".
In this article we saw just three of diseases which are able to be treated with stem cell therapy. However research in this area is huge and extended to other kind of diseases which affect: heart, eyes, brain etc. According to the progress and the recent discoveries, it's reasonable to think that one day researchers will develop a treatment to permanently heal serious diseases and make the life of people better.
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