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Stem Cells

 

Stem cells are unique cells in our body that are largely responsible for how we heal. They possess two key characteristics that make them unique.  1- Proliferation:  They can divide repeatedly, making more stem cells.   And 2- Differentiation:  Stem cells can change; turning themselves into various types of cells in our body, depending what type of cells need support or healing.  

Newborns have very robust stem cells, capable of proliferating at a high rate.  One cell can divide into 2 billion cells in just 30 days.  Over our lifespan, our stem cells become less and less capable of proliferation.  By the time we are 65 years old, one of our stem cells will divide into only around 200 cells in 30 days.  Children heal very fast but as we age, we heal slower and slower. 

Another reason we do not heal as well as we age is because we have less and less stem cells.  Newborns have a 1: 10,000 ratio of stem cells to non-stem cells.   By the time we are 65 years old, our ratio of stem to non-stem cells is about 1: 1,000,000.  

In adult tissue, stem cells can repair or replace injured or diseased tissue in various organs of the body.  Adult stem cells are typically limited to creating cell types of the tissue that they occupy. For example, blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow give rise to other blood cells; this type of stem cell is a hematopoietic stem cell.  In contrast, embryonic stem cells originate from the embryo and can develop spontaneously into any cell type. 

Mesenchymal stem cells are another type of stem cell found in our body. These types of stem cells have the ability to generate and repair connective tissues such as bone, tendon, muscle, ligament, nerve, cartilage, fat, and skin cells. One of the highest concentrations of mesenchymal stem cells in our body is in Wharton’s Jelly.  Wharton’s Jelly is a substance found in umbilical cords.  Umbilical cords are processed to collect mesenchymal stem cells, along with other substances which help us heal such as cytokines and growth factors.   The substances can then be cleaned and preserved using very cold temperatures.   Once thawed, the cells and substance can then be used to safely help many health conditions.  

Stem cells that differentiate into specific cell types, such as mesenchymal stem cells, offer the possibility to address diseases including macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, cartilage damage, ligament damage and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

National Institute of Health. (2016). Stem cell information. https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics.htm

Davies, J. E., Walker, J.T., & Keating, A. (2017). Concise review: The rich, but enigmatic, source of mesenchymal stromal cells. Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 6, 1620-1630.

Author
Aligned Medical Group, P.C.

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