All you need to know about stem cell therapy
We have been seeing a wave in the skin care industry for the past few years. Despite the pandemic hitting us, the skin care industry is slowly steadily growing. This is because of the huge awareness about skin care amongst the teens and young adults. So, there is a lacuna to fill this ever growing demand. I often see new skin care brands and new skin care trends popping up now and then. From snail slime mucin to gender neutral skin care, there is a “trend” to pick up every week. One such hot topic is stem cell therapy.
Are you concerned about whether stem cell therapy is a marketing gimmick or it really works? Have you been contemplating undergoing stem cell therapy yourself? Here’s a truly honest review of stem cell therapy. So read it till the end.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can have the ability of self-renewal, plasticity and differentiation. In simpler terms, stem cells can convert into any types of cells in the body and that’s why stem cell scientists are so hopeful about this new discovery. Stem cells are present normally in umblical cord, bone marrow or blood. However, recent advancement in dermatology has seen adipocyte derived stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells too. The various kinds of stem cells present in the body are:
- Epidermal stem cells: Skin is a potential source of stem cells. These stem cells are present in a specialised environment known as niche. Stem cells are present in inter-follicular epidermis (keratinocyte), bulge of the hair follicle (keratinocyte, melanocyte and neuronal), sebaceous gland, dermal papillae, dermis and subcutaneous tissue (mesenchymal).
- Haematopoetic stem cells: These are present in the bone marrow and blood. Bone marrow also contains mesenchymal cells. Haematopoetic stem cells can be autologous(derived from the same self) or allogenic(derived from HLA matched donor). They have a role in regenerative medicine and prevention of genetic disorders.
- Cord blood stem cells: Umblical cord is the source of haematopoetic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. Cord blood preservation is seemingly getting popular in the US due to its regenerative capacity.
What is stem cell therapy?
The current trend in stem cell therapy is to focus on two major areas which is: “prevention” of diseases and “regenerative medicine”. The first provides the power to change an individual’s destiny, preventing a disease from occurring and increasing life expectancy, while the second is an attempt to cure diseases for which modern medicine has yet no treatment available. Stem cells are used in every medical speciality with the hope of providing treatment to chronic diseases and in the hope of preventing diseases.
Where can we use stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapies have been used across many medical specialities. These are some of the common uses:
- Orthopaedics for joint rejuvenation
- Surgical ulcer management
- Cancer prevention
- Diabetes treatment
- Vitiligo surgery
- Skin rejuvenation
- Hair fall treatment
As discussed above, stem cells are of human origin. They have to be derived from biological tissues such as umblical cord, blood or bone marrow. If you are being offered “stem cell therapy” in a bottle, BEWARE as it is not stem cells at all. Furthermore, there are few concerns about actual stem cells too.
- Firstly, stem cell therapy is yet to get US FDA approval status as it is a new treatment modality for which long term trials have yet to be completed. There are yet no proven records of their safety or efficacy.
- Stem cells are like drugs and they too have side-effects. They have replicating capacity and unaltered growth of these stem cells can even lead to cancerous growth. Also, once these stem cells are inside your body, how they react is totally up to them. If they start dysfunctioning, there is nothing you or your doctor can do about it.
- Stem cells are not a one stop solution to all your problems. They are one of the most advanced treatments available but you should not directly jump to these treatments. It’s better to take other established forms of treatments before trying these.
Take home message
Stem cells are definitely a “hope” to chronic skin diseases and other disorders which seem to have no cure as of now.
Stem cells NEVER come packed in a bottle as by definition these are derived from human tissue. If you come across any clinic offering stem cell therapy wrapped in a bottle, take a U turn from there and never go back.
In dermatology, stem cell therapy has proven results in non-responding stable vitiligo and in alopecia.
Go to a reputed clinic with an established board certified dermatologist in Delhi if opting for stem cell therapy as it requires thorough knowledge of stem cells.
Stem cell therapy is yet not FDA approved and the results and long term side-effects are largely unknown.