Current and Future Uses of Stem Cells in Medicine

The foremost objective of modern medicine is the creation of technologies that are capable of returning the body to its usual form after trauma or disease.

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In the recent past, technology has been bound to the use of donated organs, cultured grafts, and prosthetics. Over the past two decades, studies in stem cell technology have given the world of medicine hope and another choice for patients. For example, stem cells can be used to treat many diseases though this has generated conflict in the social, medical, and ethical world. According to Uma, Jonatahn & Bhaskar (2009), adult tissues can produce stem cells that can be used in regenerative medicine. Recent discoveries have shown that a variety of adult tissues have multipotent stem cells. These cells can be used in many ways to treat diseases and injuries and they are ethically allowed.

Researchers have come up with devices and methods that can regulate the environment for stem cell differentiation. Two properties of stem cells that make them different from other body cells are their ability to differentiate into different functional cell types and they can renew themselves via cell division. On-going research is developing a system that will use these unique properties of stem cells to produce certain cell types which can be used medically (Steinman & Banchereau, 2007).

Current Applications

Cancer is one of the diseases that have no known cure yet. Patients who suffer from cancer ailments like leukemia or blood cancer have been treated using cells that have been removed from the umbilical cord (Snow, 2005). Cancer patients are subjected to a kind of treatment known as chemotherapy where chemicals or rays are used to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, this method kills the bone marrow’s hematopoietic stem cells that are responsible for the formation of other normal functioning cells. During this stage of treatment, the benefactor’s bone marrow that contains the stem cells is brought into the bone marrow of the beneficiary. The new bone marrow differentiates to give rise to cells that were destroyed by chemotherapy. Additionally, several cell-based advances like T-cells and dendritic cell vaccines are being studied and their uses in the therapy of diseases like cancer (Steinman & Banchereau, 2007, Orlic et al., 2003).

Cell therapy can help in the regeneration of several tissues in diseases like peripheral arterial disease, liver ailments, diabetes, bone problems, disorders that involve degeneration of the neural system among others (Tateishi-Yuyama et al., 2002). Pluripotent hESCs can differentiate into certain cell types that are both transplantable and functional. This therapy can be used to treat quite a several patients. An example is diabetes, encapsulated hESC-derived Beta islet cells can be transplanted to other unmatched recipients without suppression of the immune system. This method will enable a cell population to be manufactured as a product that can be used to treat many patients, unlike bone marrow stem cell transplantation which is patient specific.

Future Applications

Recent approaches include studies of the human genome. These studies will lead to personalized medical treatments. This is because human treatment will be focused on a particular patient’s response to a certain drug or therapy. Stem cells can be used in this personalized form of treatment. The stem cells of a patient will be grown and put in the injured body part where they will differentiate to heal. This is possible if the differentiated cells can be directed to get into their pluripotent state.

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Today, there is no therapy for patients ailing from steroid-refractory graft versus host disease. Uses of monoclonal antibodies, pentostatin, and other drugs have shown moderate success (Fang et al., 2007).

In the Western world, myocardial infarction is the major cause of congestive heart failure and consequently death. Current therapy focuses on curbing the development of ventricular remodeling and congestive heart failure. Recent studies have shown that myocardial regeneration using stem cells that can differentiate into cardiomyocytes can cure this disease. This can deter the neurohormonal outcomes that come after myocardial infarction which often lead to congestive heart failure (Strauer et al. 2002).


Fang, B. ,Y.Song, L.Liao, Y.Zhang, & R.C Zhao. (2007). Favorable response to human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells in steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host disease. Transplant Proc 39 (10): 3358-3362.

Orlic, D.,J.Kajstura, S. Chimenti , D.M. Bodine, A. Leri, & P. Anversa. (2003). Bone marrow stem cells regenerate infarcted myocardium. Pediatric Transplant 7 Suppl.3: 86-88Snow, N. E. (2005). Stem Cell Research: New Frontiers in Science & Ethics. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Steinman, R.M., & J. Banchereau. (2007). Taking dendritic cells into medicine. Nature 449 (7161):419-426.

Strauer , B.E., M. Brehm, T.Zeus, M.Kostering,A.Hernandez, R.V.Sorg,G.Kogler,& Wernet, p.(2002). Repair of infarcted myocardium by autologous intracoronary mononuclear bone marrow cell transplantation in humans. Circulation 106 (15): 1913-1918.

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Taguchi, A.,M.Ohtani,T.Soma,M.Watanabe, & Kinosita, N. ( 2003). Therapeutic angiogenesis by autologous bone-marrow transplantation in a general hospital setting. Eur J Vasc Surg 25 (3): 276-278.

Tateishi-Yuyama, E.,H. Matsubara, T. Murohara, U. Ikeda, S.Shintani, H. Masaki, K.Amano et al. (2002). Therapeutic angiogenesis for patients with limb ischaemia by autologous transplantation of bone-marrow cells: A pilot study and a randomized controlled trial. Lancet 360:427-435.

Uma, J. & Bhaskar (2009). Emerging Technology Platforms for Stem Cells. New York: Wiley.

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