STEM CELLS IN LAST YEARS HAVE TO HEAR in a very different context: they are offered to be used in cosmetic procedures and even added to creams, they learn to extract from milk teeth and the umbilical cord, they are used in the treatment of various diseases. Often in the news, new possibilities for their use are reported, which are still to be studied in the laboratory for a long time; As a result, some stem cells seem to be something from the future, while others think that they have already become commonplace and are used in any beauty salon. We understand what stem cells are in general, what they are often used for now and what benefits are possible so far only in theory.
Where do stem cells come from?
Stem cells are so-called undifferentiated cells that can transform into different cells of the body – and there are more than two hundred in humans – with different functions inherent to them. For example, nerve cells or blood cells have narrow, specific tasks – and they spend all their energy on performing these tasks, without wasting on reproduction. And new red blood cells or neurons arise from stem cells that every person at any age has. They are of different types : some are capable of differentiating only into one type of cells, others – into several; embryonic stem cells in early pregnancy can transform into any type of body cell.
There is a terminological debate among scientists about whether all these cells can be called stem cells and whether the terms “stem cell” and “progenitor cell” are synonymous, but in general, both terms can be used equally. We are talking about basic cells that can transform into any other – which means that if you learn how to handle them correctly, they can potentially allow you to grow new skin at the site of a burn or replace liver tissue affected by hepatitis. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to use stem cells for such purposes – but still there are a number of serious problems that they help to solve. Stem cells can be obtained from embryos (for example, abortive materials can be used for research purposes), and in adults, their main source is bone marrow. Stem cells are also actively secreted from dental pulp and from the umbilical cord of newborns.
What are they used for?
Stem cells have been used for several decades in the treatment of serious diseases of the blood and bone marrow, such as leukemia. The bone marrow is an organ of hematopoiesis; in fact, it consists of stem cells. When it is not functioning or produces “defective” blood cells, one of the treatment options is transplantation, that is, “replacing” the bone marrow stem cells with healthy ones. For this, both donor cells and their own can be used, if they have undergone a certain processing.
The bone marrow transplant procedure itself is not like a classical transplant – the doctor does not cut the bones and replace their contents with new ones. A bone marrow transplant looks like a blood transfusion – by the way, bone marrow donation can be done as a blood donation. With other tissues, the situation is still more complicated: for a skin or corneal transplant, tissue from stem cells must first be grown in a nutrient medium, and these are expensive processes that require ideal conditions. According to the researchers , the states are not yet ready to finance such methods, and for commercial structures it is not very profitable due to the relatively low demand.
Are test tube teeth possible?
When it became clear that nerve cells are nevertheless restored thanks to stem cells , an active study began on how to treat patients with diseases of the nervous system with their help. These are Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis. Given that an embryonic stem cell can transform into any other, they could theoretically be used in patients with heart, liver or bone diseases.
For the treatment of some of these diseases, stem cells have already been used in humans on an experimental basis, while for others there is still only data from animal studies or, in general, only theoretical calculations. As for news like ” scientists have grown teeth from stem cells ” – do not flatter yourself. Perhaps, in the future, dental implants will indeed be abandoned, but so far it has been possible to stimulate the growth of human tooth tissue only in a test tube.
Do I need to keep cells
As with any potential cure for “everything” or a means of rejuvenation, an expensive business has formed around stem cells: more and more services are offered to isolate and store stem cells “just in case.” Indeed, the same dental stem cells have great potential – but no one knows when they can be used in practice to treat, for example, heart disease. And dentists are already offering a service for freezing them . Such services are usually sold with the wording “if you develop a rare disease, stem cells will save your life” – but it is not a fact that in this case they will already be used to treat a specific disease.
Another common option is the cord blood bank; in order to preserve stem cells in it, the umbilical cord must be cut as soon as possible after the birth of the child, literally within a couple of seconds. These banks are of two types: private and public (most often with government funding). Blood is donated to a public bank for free – but a specific child will no longer be able to use it. The sample is anonymized for storage, fully describing its characteristics, and may after some time be issued at the request of a particular hospital for transplantation. Cord blood and stem cells from public banks can also be used for research purposes.
In a private bank, you have to pay for storing blood , but if necessary – for example, if a child has been diagnosed with leukemia – your own stem cells can really save a life. True, so far, according to researchers , the probability that a person will develop a disease before the age of twenty-one, which can be cured by his own stem cells, ranges from 0.005% to 0.04% – that is, tends to zero. The likelihood that stem cells will be useful for treating someone from blood relatives is even lower. These rates are likely to rise when stem cells actually begin to be used in the treatment of common diseases such as strokes or diabetes mellitus. But today the services of a private cord blood bank are just a way to spend a lot of money.
Why stem cells are added to creams
Stem cells are indeed added to cosmetics – but not human or animal, but plant cells ; one of the most popular sources of cells for this is the apple tree. It is clear that cells cannot multiply or differentiate in the composition of the cream, but this is not necessary. No one is trying to replace human cells with these plant cells: from the apple stem cell, even if it could retain the ability to reproduce, new human skin cells would not have come out.
Cosmetics developers have completely different tasks: plant stem cells contain active substances that support the sensitivity of skin cells to hormones and neurotransmitters – substances that transmit a variety of signals in the body. Experiments show that compositions with plant stem cells reversible age-related changes in the skin and slow down the aging of hair follicles – but you need to understand that in this case the action of stem cells is not direct, as in the treatment of leukemia, but indirect.