Stem cells are known for their ability to regenerate damaged tissue and serve as a cure for a range of diseases, including neurodegenerative, orthopedic and autoimmune conditions. Stem cell treatment is an evolving area of research that leads to fascinating findings. However, such findings are often coupled with misconceptions.
Such myths and misconceptions may arise from the prejudice governed by political and ethical issues pertaining to the use of stem cells for treatments. Despite being in the age of information, distinguishing fact from fiction can be quite challenging. However, learning about some of the most common stem cell myths can help.
Misconceptions About Stem Cells
Stem cell therapy, similar to all other treatment options, is not immune to myth and falsely fabricated information. Some common myths about stem cell treatment revolve around its legality and effectiveness. These myths include:
1. Stem Cell Therapy Is Illegal
The issue of legality is subject to the country in which stem cell therapy is being used. However, it’s important to know that research on the use of this approach has been going on for decades. In fact, a method of deriving stem cells from human embryos was first discovered in 1998. Later, these cells were harvested from adult tissues. In most countries, treatments using stem cells are approved and regulated by medical authorities.
2. Stem Cells Are Not Effective
Those not fond of stem cells often argue that their effectiveness is not proven. However, studies have shown that stem cells are capable of replacing damaged or dying cells in the tissues of the human body, alleviating inflammation, relieving pain, and improving many symptoms. In addition, they are also known for regenerating cognitive functionality in patients suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
3. Stem Cells Are Not Compatible With The Immune System
Actually, stem cells can be rejected by the immune system during procedures such as a hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) transplant. These transplants are known for a high level of expression which in turn cause the immune system to recognize the stem cells as foreign antigens. However, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) procedures have a lower expression and make them a potentially safer alternative, lowering the chances of rejection due to their immune-privileged feature.
4. Stem Cells Cause Malignancies
Researchers were concerned about the use of stem cells leading to the development of cancer or tumors. Such concerns were largely driven by the high reproductive potential of these cells. However, clinical trials have led to findings that MSCs do not demonstrate the development of malignancies.
A total of 62 randomized clinical trials were conducted on 3,546 participants diagnosed with varying diseases and treated with intravenous or local implantation or placebo alternatives. Results of these trials show that MSCs administration was only associated with slight adverse reactions such as:
- Transient fever
5. Stem Cells Are Taken From Abortions
One of the most common myths and ethical concerns pertaining to the use of stem cells is that they’re only found in embryos. However, this is not true. Embryonic stem cells are just one type, and scientists have also found them in other body parts like bone marrow, fat tissue, etc. In addition, regenerative therapy only uses MSCs which are typically found in adults. MSCs have a safer profile compared to embryonic stem cells while retaining all the beneficial properties of these cells.
Safety and Efficacy of Stem Cell Treatment
Using stem cells for treatment is an option that is a ray of light in the dark for many worldwide. Although research pertaining to the use of stem cells is ongoing, different studies have shown their potential for replacing damaged cells in the tissues affected by a disease. In addition, findings also state that stem cells could potentially even be used to cure cancer.
One of the most severe safety concerns pertaining to the use of stem cells is the possibility of their rejection by the immune system. However, treatment procedures like the use MSCs have greatly lowered the risk of a donor-recipient mismatch.
Real-Life Success Stories of Stem Cell Treatment
While separating fact from fiction remains challenging, many worldwide have benefited from the use of stem cells. Some real-life success stories regarding stem cell treatment include:
- Reema Sandhu. Reema was diagnosed with MS, and despite taking high-dose drugs, her condition did not improve. However, after an autologous stem cell transplant, significant cognitive improvements and even the restoration of sight were seen.
- Andrew Robinson. Andrew was suffering from Arthritis at the age of 47 and was told that he would need knee replacement surgery. However, the intra-articular transplantation of stem cells collected from bone marrow helped him walk again in 10 weeks.
- Dave Randle. Dave suffered a severe heart attack and was left with significant heart failure. However, he received treatment based on stem cells derived from his bone marrow. These cells were isolated and cultivated and then infused back into his bloodstream, and substantial improvements were seen in the patient’s health condition.
How to Determine If Stem Cell Treatment is Right for You?
Despite being a field that is under research and development, the use of stem cells has proven to be quite promising for diseases that may have been categorized as incurable. Those suffering from medical conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and Alzheimer’s are likely to see the healing power of stem cells as a beacon of light. However, it is essential that such individuals visit a stem cell clinic and undergo a thorough examination to determine if stem cells are a suitable option for them. In addition, such individuals should verify that the treatment option they are considering is approved by medical authorities based on clinical trials.
Misconceptions about new and advanced treatment options, like the use of stem cells, are quite common. It’s important to know that such misconceptions are developed due to a lack of knowledge coupled with prejudices. Research pertaining to the use of stem cells is picking up rapidly, destroying existing myths, and the cell-based approach continues to be a promising solution to multiple diseases.