Stem cells are the body’s raw materials. They are unspecialized cells that have ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiate into a diverse range of specialized cell types. They are critical for the development, growth, maintenance and repair of bones, muscles, blood, brain, nerves, skin and other organs. There are several sources of stem cells:
- Embryonic Stem Cells: These stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old. These are pluripotent stem cells and can be used to regenerate or repair diseased tissues and organs
- Adult Stem Cells: These stem cells are found in most adult tissues (bone marrow or fat) in small numbers. As compared to embryonic stem cells, they have more limited ability to give rise to various cells of the body
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: Using genetic reprogramming, adult cells are transformed by scientists into stem cells that act similar to embryonic stem cells
- Perinatal Stem Cells: These stem cells are found in amniotic fluid & umbilical cord blood. They have the ability to change into specialized cells
Key Factors Igniting Interest in Stem Cells
- To Develop Understanding of How Diseases Occur: By observing how stem cells mature into cells in nerves, bones, heart muscles and other organs and tissues, researchers and healthcare professionals may better understand how diseases and conditions develop
- Help in Generating Healthy Cells to Replace Diseased Cells: Stem cells possess the potential to transform into specific cells that can be used to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissues
- To Test Safety and Effectiveness of New Drugs: Prior to using investigational drugs on people, researchers can use stem cells to test drugs for quality & safety
Transplantation of Blood Stem Cells Most Established Stem Cell Treatment
Currently, there are only limited stem cell therapies that have been thoroughly established as safe and effective treatment. The most well-established and widely used stem cell treatment is the transplantation of blood stem cells to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system, or to restore the blood system after treatments for specific cancers.
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Other areas/indications where stem cell therapies are being used are:
- For the treatment of knee cartilage defects in patients with Osteoarthritis (OA)
- For the treatment of Crohn’s fistula
- For regeneration of subcutaneous adipose tissue
- For the treatment of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
- For the treatment of acute graft versus host disease (aGVHD) in children and adults, among others
Derivation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) requires destruction of human embryos. Ethical concerns related to embryonic stem cells is one the of key factors that is likely to hamper the growth of the Stem Cell Therapy Market. Increasing number of clinics offering unproven stem cell-based treatments is another ethical issue faced in the field of stem cell-based therapies.
“Stem cells have a bright future for the therapeutic world by promising stem cell therapy. We hope to see new horizon of therapeutics in the form of bone marrow transplant, skin replacement, organ development, and replacement of lost tissue such as hairs, tooth, retina and cochlear cells.”
– CEO, South Korea Based Stem Cell Therapy Provider
Future Outlook of Stem Cell Therapy Market
Stem cell therapy could be the medical innovation of the century. It has emerged as a promising new approach in almost every medicine specialty. Despite an enormous amount of research being undertaken, there are still limited safe and effective treatments available to patients. This is partially because complex diseases which are currently incurable require complex treatments and a personalized approach.
However, the future growth prospects of stem cell therapy market look’s promising as there are several ongoing and completed clinical trials involving stem cells which are showcasing positive outcomes.
In clinical studies and treatment attempts, stem cell therapies have been tested with the following indications:
- Macular Degeneration
- Neurological Conditions
- Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD)
- Cirrhosis of the Liver, among others
Stem cell therapies are increasingly being seen as the transformative step in treating conditions with unmet needs. This, coupled with growing investment in the sector and an increasing number of stem cell donors is expected to drive the global Stem Cell Therapy market forward in the coming years.
Sources: Medi-Tech Insights Analysis, Interviews, Company Websites
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