We live in an exciting age for medicine. Medical science is constantly evolving, with researchers discovering and refining ways to improve health and increase longevity every day. A fairly recent addition to the world of allopathic medicine is regenerative medicine. Rather than just treating symptoms and delaying inevitable decay, regenerative medicine seeks to create healing and renewal in the body. Regenerative medicine is primarily focused on the use of stem cells to repair and restore the body to full health.

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy is the use of the primary building blocks of life stem cells to heal various tissues and systems in the body. Stem cells are the parent cells, they are responsible for the creation of every other type of cell. When a fetus develops in the womb, stem cells are created first. Those stem cells then differentiate into every other type of cell. Stem cells are responsible for all the rejuvenative processes of the body. The natural decline in their numbers as we age is one of the main reasons for the signs of aging.

A stem cell treatment consists of injecting or grafting stem cells into diseased or decaying tissue. This injection of healthy parent cells into diseased tissue causes that organ or system to begin regenerating itself. The stem cells trigger the recipient organ to begin producing more healthy cells to replace the ones lost to disease or decay. This inspires the body to actually heal itself, returning to the state of health it had before the disease developed.

Stem cells can be drawn from bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue, nerve and brain cells, embryos, and umbilical cords. They can be drawn from the person receiving the stem cell treatment, or from a donor.

Stem Cell Banking

In order to have a supply of stem cells for potential medical needs in the future, some new parents choose to have their childrens umbilical cords banked. The stem cells from the umbilical cord are extracted and cryogenically frozen, in the case that the child or another family member has need of a stem cell treatment in the future. So far banked stem cells have only been used to treat relatively rare blood and bone disorders, but there is hope that many applications for banked stem cells will be discovered in the near future.

Results of Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy has had very promising results. It has successfully been used for decades to treat leukemia and other bone cancers. It is improving quality of life for people with arthritis and other joint issues. Stem cell therapy is also proving helpful for people with heart conditions, enabling damaged heart tissue to actually regenerate. In longevity applications, stem cell therapy reduces wrinkles, increases energy levels, and slows many of the effects of aging including dementia and vision loss.

Costs of Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is still cost-prohibitive for most people. As it is considered an experimental treatment in most cases, insurance companies will not usually cover it. To have a childs umbilical cord stem cells banked can cost several hundred dollars. A regenerative treatment like injecting stem cells into the knees, hips, or spine can cost a few thousand dollars or more. Most stem cell therapy treatments have been in the context of research studies, which are paid for by the companies that will be profiting from the treatments once they are proven effective and safe.

Stem Cell Research

Stem cell therapy has been used primarily in research settings. Doctors and scientists have explored using stem cells to treat a wide variety of ailments, including heart disease, several forms of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers, stroke, and genetic deformities.

Stem Cell Side Effects

Stem cell therapy is considered safe for most people, and can be life-saving in many cases. But it does have some potential side effects that can be quite dangerous. The most common side effect of stem cell therapy is graft versus host disease, when the immune system of the patient rejects the donor stem cells as foreign invaders. This occurs in about 45 percent of stem cell treatments that use donor cells. It can usually be treated with anti-rejection drugs or another infusion of cells from the donor.

The other most common side effect is infection. The patients immune system is often weakened, either by anti-rejection drugs, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. This combined with an influx of foreign cells designed to inspire growth can cause infection. Less dangerous potential side effects include nausea, pneumonia, a changed sense of taste, bleeding, anemia, and dry mouth.

Stem cell therapy is a revolutionary treatment that is changing the face of medicine. Instead of just managing symptoms, doctors are increasingly able to heal disease and regenerate damaged tissues. Though a great deal more research is required to determine the long-term effects of stem cell therapy and discover all of its applications, regenerative medicine is clearly the wave of the future.