Stem Cells 101

Stem Cells 101

Stem cell therapy has garnered much attention over the years through media and medical reporting. Whether it is ground breaking science in the generation of complete functional organs  or the healing of spinal cord injuries, stem cells have remained at the forefront of the medical fields. The knowledge of these cells and their properties continues to grow and with that, new therapies and applications are becoming more readily available.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells may be classified into two groups based on their origin: embryonic and adult stem cells. For all intents and purposes, we will focus on adult stem cells only. Adult stem cells are found in every tissue of the body including bone marrow, adipose tissue, skin and the liver. These cells have the ability to differentiate into any type of tissue (pluripotent) under the appropriate circumstances and can additionally activate surrounding cells to aid in wound healing and tissue repair. Additionally,  stem cells can also go through several cycles of cell division/ replication without differentiating into a specific tissue type.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy is the process by which a tissue sample is obtained from the patient (either by fat or bone marrow extraction), and is then processed to isolate the stem cells,  followed by administration back into the patient at the site of injury or disease by injection.

When stem cells are injected in a concentrated form, they act as a conductor for tissue repair by performing a number of tasks including:

  • Differentiation into surrounding tissue type
  • Activation of surrounding resident stem cells
  • Recruitment of other cell types Release of cytokines and growth factors to accelerate healing and tissue repair
  • Regulation of inflammatory cytokines
  • Reduction and/ or elimination of scar tissue.
  • Immune modulation

What has stem cell therapy been used for?

In veterinary medicine, stem cell therapy has been used for a wide range of indications including:

  • Degenerative Diseases
    • Tendon injuries or tendinopathies
    • Ligament Injuries
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Certain spinal conditions
  • Fracture Repair
  • Osteochondral Defects

Stay tuned for next week’s in depth look at Growth Factors!


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