Regenerative medicine is a branch of translational research (research building upon the basics of known science to produce new therapies) in tissue engineering and molecular biology which deals with the process of replacing, engineering, or regenerating human cells, tissues, or organs to restore normal functionality. Stem cells are superstars in both medical research and regenerative therapy. For example, stem cells have been successfully used to give cancer free blood to dying patients and in the treatment for type 1 diabetes.
For those who do not know, stem cells are found in various parts of the body and have yet to develop a specialized role or function. After conception, our single celled organism begins to divide itself, and throughout development, these cells begin to take on specialized roles throughout the body, such as skin cells or brain cells. This process is known as differentiation and helps to support the complex beings we become. However, once a cell has been differentiated, it can only make a certain number of copies before it begins to break down, either through the normal aging process or by trying to repair tissue that has been damaged from disease or injury. After these cells begin to break down and die, they are not able to replace themselves any longer.
Stem cells are essentially cells before they become differentiated.
What makes stem cells so special to the healing process is the ability to replenish themselves almost indefinitely without breaking down and the fact that they retain the amazing potential to develop into almost all of the other cell types found in the body.
Stem cells serve as a kind of internal, integral repair system for all of our major organs. Without them, our bodies would not function the same. There are several main types of stem cells; embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).
Embryonic stem cells are derived from unused embryos that are donated after an in-vitro fertilization process. These stem cells are pluripotent and can still develop into the majority of other cells types in the body. Adult stem cells (otherwise commonly known as tissue specific stem cells) are found in small pockets throughout most adult tissues, such as bone marrow or fat. These cells are multipotent, meaning that they can only produce tissue specific cells from the area they were found, i.e. adult stem cells taken from bone marrow can not produce cells found in the liver. Finally, induced pluripotent stem cells are adult stem cells that have been programmed in a lab to act as though they are embryonic stem cells. These cells are programmed to function like they were taken at an earlier stage in development, allowing them to now specialize into the majority of other cells types, just like embryonic stem cells.
Stem cell research and stem cell therapy will continue to offer more and more life-saving research and technology.
Since the discovery of stem cells more than 30 years ago, the understanding of how to treat and manage disease or injury has changed drastically. Through their discovery, scientists have discovered alternate ways of harvesting stem cells, enabling the medical community to offer additional therapies such as umbilical cord blood stem cell banking, hoping to eliminate the need for embryonic stem cells in research and modern medicine entirely.
Umbilical cord blood banking is the process of collecting your newborns cord blood at the time of delivery, extracting the stem cells and other cells of the immune system, then cryogenically storing them for potential medical purposes. Perhaps you were given this opportunity during pregnancy with your child. Umbilical cord blood is highly potent with hematopoietic stem cells and other cells of the immune system. Since umbilical cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells (blood forming stem cells) they are able to develop into any cell type found within the blood, including cells of the immune system. It has been approved for the treatment of over 80 blood related or immune diseases such as leukemia, anemia, and autoimmune disease.
Umbilical cord blood banking has helped to save thousands and thousands of lives.
If you have missed the chance of storing your child's cord blood, then do not worry, there are other ways of banking stem cells, possibly allowing you the chance to take advantage of certain regenerative medicine therapies. Alternatively, if you already have banked some of your child's cord blood, it is still a good idea to take advantage of the other sources of stem cells that are available for banking, such as stem cells from wisdom teeth removal.
Similar to umbilical cord blood, wisdom teeth are a potent source of adult stem cells.
The same as umbilical cord blood, when wisdom teeth are extracted they are normally disposed of as medical waste. They contain dental pulp, a rich source for viable stem cells that can be stored for medical purposes. Stem cells taken from wisdom teeth, however, contain a different type of stem cells, known as mesenchymal stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent, just like hematopoietic stem cells, but they differ in the fact that mesenchymal stem cells are able to differentiate into different cells types of the skeletal system, such as cartilage cells, bone cells, and fat cells. Stem cells extracted from wisdom teeth can be used to treat things like multiple sclerosis, crohn's disease, and spinal cord injuries.
We all know that when it comes to stem cells, the younger the better. Banking dental stem cells is a great option because they are normally collected at a young age and are often in good condition, since they are usually just extracted to make room for other teeth, instead of from other reasons like tooth decay.
Another benefit from banking stem cells from wisdom teeth is not needing a donor if the person whose stem cells were stored ever needed to use them. Stem cells taken directly from the patient are already a perfect match. Since the stem cells are extracted from the tooth after it is removed, it is an easy collection process, especially when compared to a bone marrow extraction.
If you are wondering whether you should store stem cells extracted from wisdom teeth, then the answer is yes. The science behind regenerative medicine is always changing and there is no way of knowing whether or not you may need them in the future as a cure or treatment for various disease or injury. Today, stem cell therapy has helped to save the lives of countless children and the full scope of its benefits have yet to be determined. If you are wondering what stem cell therapy may offer for you or a loved one, reach out to one of our specialists today!