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The Amazing Adult Stem Cells

Adult stem cells have been used to treat cancer patients for over 40 years.  The latest great advancement in stem cell therapy shows us the possibilities are endless!

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Adult stem cells (also know as somatic stem cells) are regenerative cells of the human body.  Their primary purpose is healing by refilling the dying cells and regenerating the damaged tissues.

Not only can you find adult stem cells in bone marrow and unbilical cord blood, you can also find them in many organs and tissues, including brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin, teeth, heart, gut, liver, ovarian epithelium, and testis.

It was once believed that adult stem cells only create specialized cells related to their specific location.  Recent studies have shown if the cells are put in a different environment, they may produce a different type of cells from the originating cell.   For example, multipotent stem cells from one type of tissue (blood) may have the ability to generate cells for a different type of tissue (nerve).

Stem cells harvested from bone marrow and skeletal muscle are capable of repairing damaged cardiac tissue after a heart attack.  A recent study by Cytori indicates patients who are treated with stem cells shortly after a heart attack have significantly less heart damage in a 18 month follow-up.

Adult stem cells also shine new light on autoimmune disease treatment, such as scleroderma skin disease,  multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.  By using autologous (from “one’s self”) hematopoietic stem cell (found in the bone marrow) transplantation, it may restore the body’s failing immune system.
Adult stem cells and tissues derived from the patient’s own tissues means that the cells are extremely unlikely to be rejected by the immune system since they come from the patient’s own body.  In June 2011, a cancer patient received a new windpipe created by using his own stem cells.  This represents a significant advantage, as no immunosuppressive drugs were needed after the surgery, avoiding the deleterious side effects caused by the drugs.

Adult stem cell therapy is also showing rapid advancement is the field of ophthalmology.  Researchers were able to reconstruct damaged corneas by transplantation of autologous limbal epithelial cells (cornea stem cells) and restore useful vision for patients with severe unilateral corneal disease.

For burn patients, doctors are now able to regrow the skin by spraying the burned area with a solution containing a patient’s own stem cells.  You can see the amazing National Geographic video here.

If you’d like to know more about adult stem cell therapy or regenerative medicine on the Spine & Joint Center Bergen County website click  here.


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