With every step medical science takes, we come that much closer to finding better treatment options and even cures for diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, and so many other devastating diseases.
Almost four decades after discovering embryonic stem cells (from mouse embryos), and twenty-five years after deriving stem cells from human embryos, stem cell therapy is finally being considered as a viable and fruitful treatment option for many diseases.
But what are stem cells? How can they make a difference in our lives? How does a single stem cell differentiate into other types of specialized cells? Let’s find out!
Understanding stem cells and stem cell therapy
Stem cells are progenitor cells that have the ability to transform and/or multiply into specialized cells. The cells in our body have specific roles and functions. Stem cells, on the other hand, are undifferentiated cells that can turn into specific types of cells that our body requires.
Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, helps in repairing or restoring function of tissues that have been damaged due to disease, abnormalities, and/or injury. Stem cells (or their derivatives) provide immunomodulation, secrete growth factors, reduce inflammation, and also generate supporting cells that protect damaged motor neurons from deteriorating further.
One of the primary objectives of regenerative treatments like stem cell therapy is neuroregeneration. The two types of stem cell therapy include:
Autologous therapy : the patient is treated with cells procured from their own bone marrow, blood, or fat tissue
Allogeneic therapy : the patient is treated with cells from external donors
Sources of stem cells
There are four main sources of stem cells. They are:
- Embryonic tissues
- Fetal tissues
- Adult tissues
- Differentiated somatic cells
What is stem cell differentiation?
The two main characteristics of stem cells are continuous self-renewal and the capacity to differentiate into a specialized somatic adult cell type. This specialization can happen in-vitro (in a laboratory) or in-vivo (in the patient’s body).
Cell differentiation is the process by which a cell develops the ability to perform certain specific functions. It is the process that enables a cell to ‘specialize’ in function by changing their shape, size, and even metabolic activity. This occurs due to the activation and/or repression of certain types of genes.
Less specialized or immature stem cells develop into mature cells with specific form and function. Stem cell therapy relies on this process of differentiation and the ability of stem cells to develop new skills and function.
So, if you’re a patient suffering from Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, or other types of neurological and/or developmental conditions, injected stem cells will be able to repair or take the place of damaged neurons by altering their function to suit your body’s requirement.
In fact, stem cells may also be used to generate new organs for use in transplants.
Organs generated from induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs) will possibly have a lower risk of being rejected by the body because they have been generated from the patient’s body itself.
Types of stem cells
Before we understand the different methods of stem cell differentiation, let us look at the different types of stem cells and their distinct characteristics.
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs)
ESCs are derived from the inner cell mass of an embryo in its early stages of development, and are usually grown in laboratory conditions. ESCs are unspecialized cells that do not have any specific characteristics like shape, or gene expression pattern. These cells can be differentiated into any cell type in the body.
Adult stem cells (ASCs)
These are undifferentiated cells procured from fully developed tissues like the brain, bone marrow, etc. Their ability to differentiate into other types of cells is limited. Nevertheless, these cells play a vital role in ensuring the integrity of the tissue in which they are found.
Induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs)
These are genetically reprogrammed cells that exhibit the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. iPSCs are generated by introducing specific types of genes into adult cells. iPSCs can self-renew and also differentiate into any cell type in the body.
Mesenchymal adult stem cells (MSCs)
These are adult stem cells with anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, self-renewal, cell-division, signaling, and differentiation properties. They have the ability to divide and develop into many specialized cell types in specific organs and/or tissues.
Methods of stem cell differentiation
The Embryoid Body
This is the oldest method of differentiation that involves the generation of embryoid bodies. These are aggregates of pluripotent cells (from early embryos) that form spontaneously. These cells may also be formed by suspension culture, hanging-drop culture, and culture in semisolid media.
Cells of Ectoderm, Endoderm, and Mesoderm
Neural progenitor cells that can replace damaged neurons/cells in the central nervous system, hair, and skin are derived from the ectoderm, the outermost layer of cells/tissue of an embryo in its early stage of development.
The endoderm forms many of the body’s most vital organs like pancreas and liver. The rapid rise in cases of diabetes and liver disease have made the generation of insulin-secreting cells and hepatocytes that much more essential in stem cell research and stem cell therapy.
The mesoderm is made up of cells that form blood, bone, muscle, cartilage, and heart. New mesodermal cells can be used in treating conditions like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, as well as cardiovascular ailments.
The cells of ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm are differentiated in different conditions, each specific to the type of cell and its purpose (treatment).
Research and scientific inquiry has led to the use of stem cells in treating diseases like diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, etc. Stem cell therapy has also significantly improved the quality of life of patients with developmental conditions like Cerebral Palsy.
Stem cell therapy in India
India’s first and only ISO-certified stem cell research centre, Plexus Neuro centre offers the best in class regenerative rehabilitation for several neurological, developmental, and lifestyle conditions.
We use autologous mesenchymal stem cells taken from the patient’s own body. The procedure is conducted by Dr. Na’eem Sadiq, India’s no. 1 stem cell specialist, and his team of highly-skilled and experienced stem cell specialists.
How can you benefit from stem cell therapy at Plexus
Stem cell therapy has the following benefits:
- Enhanced everyday functioning
- Improved quality of life
- Immune system modulation and reduction of inflammation
- Prevention of further nerve damage
- Speedy recovery post-procedure
- Non-surgical procedure
- Zero complications and side-effects
Connect with our stem cell specialists today.
Call +91 89048 42087 | 08229999888
Why is stem cell differentiation important?
Cell differentiation ensures the development, growth, renewal/reproduction, and life of all multicellular organisms like human beings.
What are the characteristics of stem cells?
The two main characteristics of stem cells are:
- Differentiation (can alter in form and function)
What factors affect cell differentiation?
The following factors affect cell differentiation:
- Environmental triggers
- Level of development of cell/cell types
- Cell signaling (the process by cells communicate with each other)
Which vitamin is essential for cell differentiation?
Vitamin D has a direct effect on the development, growth, and longevity of cells. Therefore, it is vital for cell differentiation.