STEM CELLS 101
For the stem cell newbees,
Here's the basics.
ADULT STEM CELL SCIENCE IN A NUTSHELL...
To understand what a stem cell is, it is important to first understand what a stem cell is not. All the cells of the body, called somatic cells, are specialized cells that do one specific thing; they will never do anything else, and they do not proliferate. For example, a skin cell will never be anything other than a skin cell and it will never divide. It will do what a skin cell does until the day it dies. It is the same for brain cells that respond to electrical impulses, pancreatic cells that make insulin, muscle cells that contract, and all the other cells of the body that do… what they do.
At the other end of the spectrum we have stem cells; they do not have any specific function: their general role is simply to multiply during the entire life of an individual and to transform into other types of cells. Historically, adult stem cells from the bone marrow were known to be precursors to blood cells, leading to the formation of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets... and nothing else. But discoveries made at the turn of the century showed that stem cells from the bone marrow have the ability to transform into virtually any type of cell in the body. In fact, this is one of their most important roles and it has since lead to the understanding that stem cells from the bone marrow constitute the natural repair and renewal system of the body.
All throughout the life of an individual, everyday stem cells leave the bone marrow to migrate into various organs and tissues to repair and maintain the proper functioning of the whole body. And when there is an injury or a degenerative process, stem cells migrate into that specific tissue to replace the cells that have been lost and effectively repair the damage.
Over the past 5-10 years, stem cell research has demonstrated that there is a direct link between the number of stem cells in circulation and the ability of the body to repair: more stem cells in circulation means that more stem cells are available to participate to the process of tissue repair. Furthermore, there is also a link between the number of stem cells in circulation and the formation of degenerative diseases: people that have developed degenerative diseases have roughly half the number of stem cells found in the blood of healthy people.
Conclusion: anything one can do to support the release of stem cells from the bone marrow and to support the overall function of stem cells in the body will contribute to creating and maintaining optimal health.
STEM CELL RESEARCH
For the Science-Minded,
Here's your data.
ENDOGENOUS STEM CELL MOBILIZATION:
A NEW PARADIGM
Over the past decade the world has seen an unprecedented explosion in the field of stem cell research. Hardly a week passes by without an article in one of the main printed newspapers, describing a new breakthrough involving stem cells. Stem cell research is arguably today one of the most prolific fields of science. And yet, little of the available information has reached the general population – or even the health profession – in a manner that allows people to clearly understand the basics as well as the tremendous promise of stem cell research.
And at the center of all this development in stem cell research is a fundamental question that is rarely talked about: if adult stem cells hold such a potential for tissue repair and regeneration, what about the stem cells naturally present in the bloodstream and the bone marrow? If isolating stem cells from the bone marrow and then reinjecting them in the bloodstream can hold such a potential for health, what about simply supporting the natural release of the stem cells already present in the bone marrow? What is the natural role of the stem cells normally present in the body? This line of study has led to what is referred to as Endogenous Stem Cell Mobilization: the release of your own stem cells. The purpose of this article is to describe the therapeutic potential of this approach.
WHAT IS A STEM CELL?
Stem cells are defined as cells with the unique capacity to self-replicate throughout the entire life of an organism and to differentiate into cells of various tissues. Most cells of the body are specialized and play a well-defined role in the body. For example, brain cells respond to electrical signals from other brain cells through the release of neurotransmitters, cells of the retina are activated by light and pancreatic ß-cells produce insulin. These cells, called somatic cells, will never differentiate into other types of cells or even proliferate. By contrast, stem cells are primitive cells that remain undifferentiated until they receive a signal prompting them to become various types of specialized cells. ...