by Dr Tan Boon Cheong – MBBS (MU), MS Ortho (MU)
I believe some of us have come across stem cells treatment in certain diseases. In orthopaedic, stem cells have been used to treat osteoarthritis, for example knee osteoarthritis, etc. Much has been said and heard about stem cells treatment but I believe the knowledge of the general population on stem cells treatment is still superficial. Thus, it is better for everyone to learn a little more about it.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells with the ability and potential to self-renew and proliferate, producing more differentiated or specialised cells in the process. Stem cells can be obtained from several sources; they have several types, namely embryonic stem cells, perinatal stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, adult stem cells(Mesenchymal, hematopoietic and epithelial) and immune stem cells.
With the advancement and research development of stem cells technology, stem cells therapy has been able to expand its therapeutic function. Stem cells have been used as a cell source to reconstruct or rebuild living tissue. In the field of immunotherapy, stem cells have been used as an immune modulator for autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, it can also act as progenitor cells for immunotherapy, allowing the development of cellular technology for anti-cancer, anti-virus and enhancement of body immune system. Because of its potential to self-renew and proliferate, stem cells is also used as a therapeutic agent for degenerative diseases related to aging and frailty, and it has been developed into drugs for treatment of chronic and resilient illnesses. With recent advancements, stem cells therapy has been introduced into the treatment of autism and it has shown promising results.
After several decades and continuous research, stem cells therapy will become a game changer for the future in medicine. The capabilities of stem cells are growing everyday although there are still many obstacles to overcome. It is undeniable that stem cells play a huge role in regenerative medicine and transplantology, but because the technology that produces stem cells is expensive, only few could afford it. With the establishment of more regulated stem cells laboratories, I believe stem cells therapy could be more affordable to everyone that requires it.