What are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)?
Stem cells are cells in the body regenerate and repair damaged tissues.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a type of adult stem cell found in various parts of our body, including bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue, and even in some organs. What makes MSCs unique is their ability to differentiate or change into different cell types. They can become bone cells, cartilage cells, fat cells, and more.
These cells are vital for tissue repair and regeneration. When you get injured or have a damaged part of your body, MSCs can migrate to the site of injury and help in the healing process. They do this by releasing growth factors and other signaling molecules that stimulate the repair of damaged tissues and reduce inflammation.
MSCs have garnered a lot of interest from scientists and medical researchers because of their potential applications in treating various medical conditions. For example, they are being explored as a treatment for joint and bone disorders like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, as well as autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. Additionally, they may have applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, offering hope for patients with injuries or diseases that currently have limited treatment options.
What are mesenchymal stem cells used for?
Mesenchymal stem cells can be sourced from donated umbilical cord tissue. The person's stem cell count is supplemented through transplantation with younger, highly competent cells. MSCs can be usedin the treatment of various conditions, including:
- Autoimmune disease
- Bone and cartilage disease (osteoarthritis)
- Crohn's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
What are the challenges of using MSCs?
Stem cell research is slow, detailed and complex. Currently, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how MSCs can be delivered to damaged body tissues. Transplanted MSCs are often rapidly removed from the body and more research is needed on holding them in place so that they can develop new cartilage and bone.
What happens during a stem cell transplant?
Stem cell treatment is delivered over a number of stages:
- Preparation: Patients undergo evaluations to determine if they're suitable for the transplant.
- Conditioning: Patients receive chemotherapy and/or radiation to prepare their body for the transplant.
- Stem cell collection: Stem cells are collected from the patient, a compatible donor, or cord blood.
- Transplantation: Collected stem cells are infused into the patient's bloodstream.
- Recovery: Patients are closely monitored for several weeks in a specialized unit, receiving supportive care.
- Engraftment: Transplanted stem cells establish themselves in the bone marrow, producing healthy blood cells.
- Follow-up care: Patients continue medical follow-up to monitor progress and manage complications.