Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can develop into specialized cells and divide to produce more stem cells. There are two types: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They serve various regenerative purposes.
Definition of stem cell treatmentÂ
Stem cell treatment can be defined as the use of stem cells to prevent or treat a diseased condition. It is done by extracting stem cells from a donor and injecting the stem cells into a recipient’s body or taking stem cells from an individual, treating it, and injecting the stem cells back into the individual. An example of how the procedure of stem cell treatment is carried out can be found on the Swiss Medica clinic’s website.
Extraction of stem cellsÂ
This is the process of obtaining the stem cells to be used in the transplant, from either donor or recipient. There are four main methods of extracting stem cells used for treatment:
- From the blood: In this method, stem cells are extracted from the blood of an individual.
- From the bone marrow: This is a more common method of stem cell transplant. It is done by collecting marrow substances, preferably from the iliac bones.
- From the placenta or the umbilical cord of a newborn baby after a healthy birth: This is widely used in regenerative medicine centers.
- From adipose tissues: The method of collection can be likened to liposuction, but the unwanted substances are filtered out.
Cultivation of stem cells for treatment
Stem cells are cultivated and then preserved by cryopreservation methods, which help in monitoring temperature and other factors in which the cells can survive for further experiments or treatments.
Cryopreservation places the patient’s (or the donor’s) cells in a state of suspended animation, and they can remain in that state for years. These cryopreserved cells can serve as a bank for any future stem cell procedures for the patient.
Administration of stem cells
There are two major methods of administering stem cell transplants, and they will be discussed briefly below.
- Autologous transplant method: This method involves extracting stem cells from an individual, freezing or/and preparing the stem cells before returning them to the individual. After that, the processed stem cells are delivered to the individual’s body where they multiply and aid in making healthy cells. This treatment can involve various methods like chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or additional therapies that are performed using medical therapy devices.Â
- Allogeneic transplant method: This method involves injecting a patient with a stem cell from a healthy individual. Stem cells are silent, immunologically, so problems of immunologic incompatibility will not arise.
Length of proceduresÂ
The length of the procedure varies from person to person depending on the discretion of the medical team. You can expect the following processes:
- Full health exam: The medical team carries out a full-body exam for the patient. They’ll also decide if the patient will use their own stem cells or that of a donor for cell therapy.
- Stem cell harvest: The stem cells are harvested from either the patient or the donor and cultured. The culture lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks. The cells can then be placed in cryopreservation if the transplant is not happening immediately.
- Transplant: The cultured stem cells are introduced back into the patient.
The recovery process varies and is dependent on a lot of factors. The recovery period lasts for about two to four weeks or more.
Benefits of stem cell treatmentÂ
Injecting stem cells into individuals is a way of treating a number of ailments. Some examples of diseases that can be cured or whose symptoms can be mitigated by the use of stem cell treatment include joint pain, osteoarthritis, cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, tendonitis, a number of neurological and cardiovascular conditions, various cancers and other diseases and conditions.
Stem cell treatments are however not limited to the above, as more research is being done to expand on its benefits. See here for more details.
Routes of Administration in Stem Cell TreatmentÂ
These are the various methods of injecting stem cells. The objective is to personalize treatment with stem cells, based on the disease and individual symptoms to obtain the best results.
There are several routes of administration of stem cells:Â
This is one of the most common stem cell treatment methods that inject the stem cells directly into the vein. In this method, cell-based medication is introduced directly into the circulation.Â This is a simple, risk- and pain-free procedure. It is very useful in neurodegenerative diseases, autism, spinal cord injuries, etc.
This is the injection of stem cell transplants directly into the artery. It can be used in the management of peripheral artery diseases ranging from atherosclerosis, and it can help relieve brain ischemia in the case of a stroke. Not much is known on this method of administering stem cell treatments.
This is a method of administration that introduces the stem cells directly into the muscle. Since muscles have larger and more numerous blood than subcutaneous tissue, intramuscular injections usually have faster rates of absorption than subcutaneous injections. It can be used for sprains, muscle tears, tendon injuries, and other traumatic injuries. Possible sites for intramuscular injection include the deltoid, rectus femoris, and ventrolateral muscles. Bruised, swollen, scarred, or inflamed sites are usually avoided.
The intrathecal method of drug administration is also known as the subarachnoid method. This is the administration of stem cell transplants via an injection into the spinal canal. This is done so that the drug reaches the cerebrospinal fluid without being stopped by the blood-brain barrier. The intrathecal method is used to manage neurological disorders. This method can also be used to administer a number of other drugs with chemotherapeutic properties.
This method involves the insertion of a needle through the eyelid and orbital fascia to deposit the stem cells behind the globe into the retrobulbar space. This is used in eye diseases such as glaucoma, retinal damage, and optic neuropathy.
Here, the cells are injected into the joint space. This method is ideal for managing traumatic and degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis.
This method involves injecting the stem cells into the ventricles of the brain. The blood-brain barrier prevents many medications from reaching the blood tissue, but this method is used because it is a useful alternative. This form of drug administration has led to effective treatment, for example, the occult and overt meningeal leukemia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in humans.
Intracerebral means that the stem cells are introduced or administered within the cerebrum. This is one of the most direct methods for administration to the target site and it is a very useful method of injecting stem cells especially for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and for traumatic brain injuries.
This involves stem cell injections into the peritoneum (body cavity) of an individual. It may be used in situations where low blood pressure or other problems prevent the use of a suitable blood vessel for intravenous injection. It is still not clear how, but this mode of administration is very effective for joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
This is a fast way to deliver substances to the brain. The cells delivered can pass up along with the filaments of the olfactory nerve through the cribriform plate and into the cranial cavity. The intranasal route of administration is useful in treating neurological disorders.
For greater efficiency, the stem cells can be injected directly to the diseased site, so they can get to work immediately, for example, in wound healing or anti-aging.
Side effects of injecting stem cells
There might be a little bit of pain and some bleeding. Occasionally, patients may have a little fever with some chills. But these side-effects can be managed comfortably with anti-inflammatory drugs. However, the intensity of these side-effects is mild compared to the risks of surgery. Thus, the risks that come with surgery are avoidable in a cell-based treatment. The variety of routes of administration in a cell-based therapy allows doctors to choose a treatment method depending on the disease, patient’s age, and condition as well as the desired goals.