People who could benefit from stem cell therapies include those with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer and osteoarthritis. Stem cell transplants can be used to treat leukemia and lymphoma, replacing cells damaged by the disease. For certain types of leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, a stem cell transplant may be an important part of treatment. The goal of the transplant is to remove cancer cells and damaged or unhealthy cells that don't work well, and give the patient new, healthy stem cells to “start over”.
Stem cells are a type of cell that can be developed in different ways to form all the organs in the body, from bones, kidneys, and liver to blood and brain. Specialized types of stem cells have the ability to stop immune responses. Therefore, stem cells can be very useful as therapy for diseases in which organs are damaged or where the immune system is too active. Some types of stem cells are already used for therapy, such as hematopoietic (blood) stem cells, which are used to treat bone marrow cancer.
The use of other types of stem cells is currently being studied in the laboratory and in experimental therapies. Researchers are trying to find the best way to give stem cells to patients, where do cells go in the body and how long they survive in the patient. We hope that many more stem cell therapies will be available in the future. Stem cells isolated from IVF embryos will have a genetic makeup that will not match that of the person receiving the transplant.
However, even in the bodies of children, adults and the elderly, we find several types of stem cells. In recent years, stem cells have been used as a powerful tool to establish models of patient-derived diseases, both to understand the molecular basis of disorders and to use them in drug development (on a plate). After birth, blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord (known as cord blood) can be removed and stored for later use in a stem cell transplant. Its potential is evident in the use of blood stem cells to treat blood diseases, a therapy that has saved the lives of thousands of children with leukemia; and can be seen in the use of stem cells for tissue grafts to treat diseases or injuries to the bones, skin and surface of the eye.
While there are a growing number of potential therapies being tested in clinical trials, there are only a few stem cell therapies that have so far been approved by the FDA. The effect means that certain types of transplants help kill cancer cells, as well as rescue bone marrow and allow normal blood cells to develop from stem cells. Like everything else in your health care, you should be the one to make the final decision about whether or not to have a stem cell transplant. Because stem cells that are specific to certain tissues cannot produce cells found in other tissues without careful manipulation in the laboratory, the same stem cell treatment is very unlikely to work for diseases that affect different tissues and organs in the body.
It's not the news most people want to hear, but there are still a few approved clinical uses of stem cell research. In recent years, some patients who came to these clinics have died, others have become blind or have had serious infections as a result of receiving untested and unproven stem cells. Clinics selling unproven stem cell treatments frequently exaggerate the benefits of their offerings and use patient testimonials to back up their claims. One of the biggest obstacles in any stem cell-based therapy is convincing stem cells to become a single cell type.
The following list highlights progress in new, ongoing, or completed clinical trials with tissue stem cells. .