Stem Cells: What are SC? Characteristics & Types

What are SC?

SC are the basic building blocks of our body. By the power of cell division, 1 human fertilized egg (zygote) divides ~41 times to develop into a new born with over 2 trillion cells. The adult human body is over 70-100 trillion cells! This is the power of Stem Cells (SC)!

The human body is truly amazing, and is constantly breaking down and rebuilding itself. SC are the “building blocks” of life, and have the ability to repair, replace or regenerate every cell, tissue and organ in the body. SC are body’s natural way to renew and heal itself.

As we age, our SC count falls down precipitously. This results in slower repair and regeneration. Eventually we break down more than the body can rebuild, resulting in aging changes. Using SC implantation, the body’s healing capacities may be restored.

 

Stem Cells have 2 main characteristics: Self Renewal and Differentiation.

  • Self-Renewal (Dedifferentiated) is the ability of SC to copy itself and keep forming new SC indefinitely. This phase is crucial to build a large number of SC. Hypoxia or low oxygen promotes SC to remain in self-renewal or dedifferentiated phase for longer time..  
  • Differentiation is ability to differentiate into multiple mature type of cells, depending on tissue and type of SC. Exposure to room air (20% O2) promotes early differentiation & thereby smaller number of SC.

Types of Stem Cells: There are 2 main types of SC: Autologous (own) & Allogeneic (donor).

Autologous SC are obtained from the patient being treated. The SC are extracted through injection or surgically. SC are expanded and transplanted back into the same patient either the same day or over several days or weeks. The autologous SC are currently legal or accepted in India, USA and most countries. The SC are limited in efficacy, due to lack of consistency, standardization, frequently older weaker patients with low SC counts, and room air exposed SC resulting in early differentiation. The clinical results have not been consistent. There is no scalability: 1 to 1 treatment only. 

Allogeneic SC are obtained from FDA approved donor banks. The SC are from young healthy volunteers or organ donations. The SC are thoroughly tested, expanded, developed into master banks and stored for future use in many patients. Stemedica SC are kept under hypoxic or low oxygen conditions, resulting in dramatic expansion and potential efficacy over room air maintained SC. The SC are highly scalable: several million treatments from 1 donor!

Embryonic SC (ESC) are pluripotent & are the most potent SC. There is concerns about safety issues including potential development of tumors or teratomas. ESC are not in common use for these concerns.

Induced Pluripotent (iPS) is a type of SC obtained from the skin and modified genetically to act like ESC. There has been some concern about manipulated data in clinical trials.

Not all stem cells are created equal!