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The Basics of Stem Cell Therapy

The field of medicine is rapidly changing, and new treatment methods are always being developed.

A stem cell is a cell that can divide and become differentiated into another type of cell. Blood, muscle, bone, and nerves all have stem cells. In the past, only embryonic stem cells were used in research. Today, adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood are widely used.

How it Works

Scientists can specialize the cells to grow into a specific type, such as blood cells or heart muscle cells. Once enough cells are grown, they are injected into the patient. For instance, if a patient is suffering from heart disease, the cells can be injected into the heart. The hope of this treatment is that the new stem cells will start to grow and multiply, helping the diseased muscle to heal or regenerate. For orthopedic patients, stem cells may be injected into areas with injuries or where the patient is experiencing chronic pain.

Another method is a stem cell transplant. This is a bone marrow transplant, where the new stem cells are inserted into the patient’s bone marrow. The bone marrow can then produce new, healthy blood cells to replace those that have been killed off by disease or chemotherapy. This method can be used in treatment for leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related diseases.

Currently, there are a limited number of conditions that are approved by the FDA to be treated by stem cell therapy.

Are There Risks?

Stem cell therapy does come with some risks. These risks are typically minor, such as infection at the site of injection. There is also the possibility of the treatment not working.

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