You've heard about stem cells in the news, and perhaps you've wondered if they might help you or a loved one with a serious disease. You may wonder what stem cells are, how they're being used to treat disease and injury, and why they're the subject of such vigorous debate.
Timothy Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Regenerative Medicine Consult Service, answers some of the most commonly asked questions about stem cells:
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the body's raw materials. These cells have the ability to renew themselves or change to become specialized cells with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle or bone.
Where do stem cells come from?
How are stem cells being used to treat diseases?
Stem cell transplants, also known as bone marrow transplants, have been performed in the United States since the late 1960s. These transplants use adult stem cells.
Thanks to new technology, researchers are exploring the use of stem cells to treat a range of conditions. For example, teams at Mayo Clinic are investigating the use of adult stem cells to delay or eliminate the need for some hip replacements.
Adult stem cells are being tested to treat degenerative diseases such as heart failure. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have been successfully used in clinical trials to treat cancer and blood-related diseases.
What does the future hold for stem cell therapy?
The use of adult stem cells continues to be refined and improved. Researchers are discovering that these cells may be more versatile than originally thought, which means they may be able to treat a wider variety of diseases, such as diabetes; heart, liver and lung diseases; neurological and bone disorders; hand, face and other injuries; and congenital anomalies.
Watch the video below for more information:
Tags: Andre Terzic, Education, Mayo Clinic, regenerative medicine, Research, stem cells, Timothy Nelson