Stem Cells are unspecialized or undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more similar type of cells, certain other kinds of cell also arises by differentiation through them and they take place of the damaged or lost cells. It plays a very pivotal role in body’s ability to renew and repair its tissues. From the above, following characteristics about stem cells can be mentioned –
First, they are unspecialized cells that renew themselves for long periods through cell division. Second is that under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become cells with special functions such as the beating cells of the heart muscle or the insulin producing cells of the pancreas.
The process of therapy or treatment with the help of stem cells are known as stem cell treatment or stem cell therapy. Research is underway to develop various sources for stem cells, and to apply stem cell treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and conditions, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. The most widely used stem cell therapy is bone marrow transplant alongwith therapies derived from umbilical cord blood. For over 30 years, bone-marrow has been used to treat cancer patients with conditions such as leukaemia and lymphoma; this is the only form of stem cell therapy that is widely practiced. Stem cells are defined by their function in complex multidimensional environments termed as stem cell niches. The simple location of stem cells is not sufficient to define a niche. The niche must have both anatomic and functional dimensions, specifically enabling stem cells to reproduce or selfrenew. Adult stem cells generally have limited function without the niche. For example, HSC, which regenerates the entire blood and immune system, circulate freely, but seem to have little function outside specific anatomic locations.
Primarily the research is going on with two kind of stem cells. These are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Besides the overwhelming promise of stem cells in various cellular therapies, their clinical and practical use is constrained by several technical and ethical issues. The biggest hurdle for the clinical use of adult stem cells is the small number of cells that can be isolated from any adult tissue.
In 2007, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnology jointly released Guidelines for stem cell treatment and Therapy, which now need to be revised to reflect new scientific and clinical findings that have significantly changed the scope of stem cell research and possible translation. Ahmedabad, Banglore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai are prime destinations for stem cell treatment in India.
A silhouette of the potential use of stem cells for treatment of human disease is now perceptible. The coming years will undoubtedly usher in new developments and technologies that would translate the envisioned therapeutic potential of stem cells to bedside medicine for patients suffering from devastating and debilitating diseases.