The human body contains many different cells that make the body work correctly. Among them are stem cells, a type of cells that can self-renew; that is, identical cells are formed that can perform the function of any other, which is why they are so important. Since they can give rise to different types of cells, they serve to regenerate the organs and tissues of the body. They can divide without limit and replace damaged cells. When one divides, it can remain a stem cell or become another type with a specific function. Due to their properties, stem cells are used to treat some diseases, and research continues. In this FastlyHealarticle we explain what stem cells are for.
What is the role of stem cells, and why are they so important?
Stem cells are essential in the body since they produce the three main types of cells in the blood that are red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, cells that we need to be alive.
- The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and returning carbon dioxide.
- Meanwhile, white blood cells are used to fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. They can be of two types: neutrophils, which fight bacterial infections, or lymphocytes, which produce antibodies to conditions, as they reject cells that do not belong to the body, such as germs. In this case, they also usually eliminate the transplanted cells from another person since they consider them foreign agents to the body.
- The platelets, in turn, are parts of cells whose function is to seal damaged blood vessels and help the blood clot.
These cells are present since the fetus is formed. The embryo contains versatile genetic material, stem cells, which produce more stem cells and tissue that will form the body.
More immature stem cells are in the embryo and umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby. When we grow up in our body, these cells are found in many tissues such as bone marrow, fat, blood, and other organs such as the heart.
What diseases do stem cells cure?
Much research states that stem cells grown from an embryo could replace cells damaged by some diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, Parkinson’s, and others. However, it raises ethical questions since, in the process of extracting the stem cells, the embryo is destroyed. However, currently, stem cells collected from the umbilical cord are used.
Stem cells have been used to treat blood diseases such as leukemias, lymphomas, severe anemia, clotting or immune system problems, or secondary anemia. They serve to cure this type of disease since, as we have seen, they can divide and form any cell with a specialized function without changing its properties. In addition, they produce the main types of blood cells. What happens is that when transplanted next to damaged cells, the stem cells are distinguished as healthy and multiply on themselves, curing the disease.
Where stem cells are obtained and how they are used in treatments
What is done is a transplant through a blood transfusion. Stem cells transform into healthy red white and platelets, causing the disease to be cured. They are collected from the umbilical cord but must be done relatively quickly since the cable remains alive when the baby is born and leaves the placenta.
Once the newborn has been delivered, a clamp is placed on the umbilical cord, as close as possible to the baby’s body. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes for the placenta to detach. At this time, the umbilical vein is punctured, and the blood is collected in specific bags.
However, the umbilical cord is not the only area where stem cells can be extracted. Have you heard of bone marrow transplantation? In this case, stem cells are also transplanted. However, in the case of adults, these cells have immunological memory and, therefore, the receiving body could detect them as foreign bodies and reject the transplant. Something that does not happen with the umbilical cord since they are new and have not been exposed to anything.
The compatibility of umbilical cord stem cells with other people will depend on genetic characteristics. Thus, they will serve in that baby almost 100%, in their parents, the compatibility will be 50%, and in their siblings, it will be less.
Some studies show that they could also regenerate other tissues such as the liver, pancreatic, heart tissue, nervous system, or even the skin. However, they are studies in an experimental phase. Scientists continue to study stem cells and their contribution to health, so it is possible that in the future, there will be many more treatments with these essential cells in our bodies.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.