If, a few years ago, you had mentioned adult stem cells to the man on the street he would have had no idea what you were talking about. He might have thought you were referring to the controversial stem-cell research that occupied the political scene. But adult stem cells and their amazing uses bear no relation to the embryonic-stem-cell controversy.
Much of the information on this important topic now urges us to look at adult stem cells as a possible “cure” for prevention, rejuvenation and repair of the body and provides much hope for some serious medical conditions and injuries we endure. One story that has captured the attention of medical personnel and layman alike is the story of the rock climber who broke his leg so severely that he was told he might have to agree to amputation.
But British doctors chose to try using stem cells from his body to heal the shattered bones. Three separate surgical procedures failed to hold the major leg bones together. Not only did the surgery not bring him back to health but the overall injuries were so serious that infection threatened to take his leg altogether.
Orthopaedic surgeons used stem cells from the climber’s own bone marrow, taking them from the hip area. According to the media reports on this procedure, the adult s/cells were combined with a collagen gel that was applied liberally on the fractured bones. (Collagen is the “main protein of connective tissue in animals,” according to encyclopedia information.) The procedure included holding the bones and applying slight pressure with a specially constructed frame that was left on for six months.
The climber now states that he can apply his weight to the leg and the bones stay intact. The surgeons have been quoted as saying that the technique amazed even them. These medical experts feel that the man will be able to climb again. Reports from other cases using the same technique show a success rate of 80 percent or better.
One of the most important facts about adult stem cells is that they are capable of “differentiating” so widely. This means that s/cells taken from one area of the body can form cells of other types, including blood and nerve cells. Research now shows that stem cells taken from the body are now repairing and forming into other healthy tissue once they are directed.
One of the key benefits of using a patient’s own adult s/cells is that there is no rejection of tissue. This was of major importance when cells from a man’s own bone marrow were injected into his heart muscle because of infarction (the tissue had died because blood flow was interrupted). The outcome was very successful. Similar treatment has been used for those with Crohn’s disease and skin diseases.
In experiments with mice, s/cells from healthy mice have helped regenerate tissue that was damaged by radiation. Even more remarkable, scientists report that the new cells formed into tissue of several different types.
Incredible stories are emerging every day in regards to the latest procedures and benefits of our own adult stem cells. With so much more investigation, funding and technology going into studying adult stem cells its looking extremely encouraging and promising.