Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells that all specialized cells start off as. They are blank cells that have not been assigned a specialized function yet. Stem cells can be utilized to correct improperly functioning parts of organs, research genetic cell defects, test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs, research cancer cells, and grow tissues in a laboratory setting that can replace damaged organs.
There are four main classifications of stem cell types. Embryonic stem cells are stem cells that come from a three to a five-day-old human embryo. Non-embryonic stem cells are stem cells that the body uses to replace or repair tissues in the same region where they are located. Induced pluripotent stem cells are genetically reprogrammed non-embryonic stem cells that behave similarly to embryonic stem cells. Cord blood stem cells are the stem cells that come from the umbilical cord after the birth of a child.
Stem cells are cells that have not been coded yet for a specialized function and are able to be adapted into cells that perform various functions in different organ systems of the body. The majority of the cells within the body are only able to perform a particular function in a specific organ. When an egg is fertilized by a sperm cell, it becomes a zygote that begins dividing and undergoing the cell reproduction process. Ultimately, the cells start to take on a specific function in an organ system of the body or they differentiate. Cells that have yet to differentiate are called stem cells. They are able to make indefinite quantities of their own copies where as differentiated cells can only undergo the cell reproduction process so many times. Stem cells also go through the cell reproduction process and can stay a stem cell or adapt into a specialized cell. Research on stem cells is focused on how to manipulate the stem cells to differentiate into certain types of cells that would help with treating or preventing specific diseases.
Stem Cell Therapy is the use of stem cells to stimulate the repair and regeneration of injured tissues, diseased cells, and dysfunctional cells. The hope for stem cell therapy is that it could one day replace the process of full or partial organ transplantation because donor organs are difficult to obtain for everyone who needs them. The stem cells are grown in a laboratory setting and then manipulated to differentiate into specialized cells like blood cells, nerve cells, or heart muscle cells. Stem cells are already successfully being used in the form of bone marrow transplants. Bone marrow transplants allow the patient's immune system to fight certain types of cancer and diseases of the blood by replacing the cells that have been damaged by the disease itself or by chemotherapy that was used to treat the disease. Stem cells have also been used for decades to grow skin grafts for individuals who have experienced large severe burns to the body. In addition stem cells are being used to repair the damage done to the surface of the eye or the cornea that resulted from an injury.
Stem cell therapy and research on stem cells has really come into the limelight in the last decade. The hefty price tag of stem cell therapy is due to a combination of the costs associated with specialized training, support personnel, diagnosis, isolation of adult stem cells, re-administration of the stem cells, post-treatment monitoring, and time for procedure follow up. The administering physician also may have to pay fees for licensing to obtain access to stem cell processing, sourcing, or delivery processes. The cost of the therapy down to the dollar is going to depend on what type of therapy is needed. Some stem cell therapy types do not require as much expertise and training than others. Some types are not as invasive and time-consuming as others. For conditions of the orthopedic variation such as rotator cuff tendonitis, arthritis, cartilage defects, tennis elbow, and knee osteoarthritis, the cost of stem cell therapy will range from $5,000 to $8,000. For systemic conditions such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, the price will range from $20,000 to $30,000. Bone marrow transplants or extraction of adipose tissues can range in price from $15,000 to $30,000.
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