The regenerative potential of stem cell therapeutics in the anti-aging setting

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Date: Dec. 2005
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,796 words

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Science now stands on the threshold of a new age in cellular therapy and tissue regeneration which will directly and beneficially impact how long, and how well, we will live in the coming decades. Stem cell therapeutics is the leading biomedical technology in the rapidly emerging field of regenerative medicine, a medical field in which science assists the human capacity to heal various tissues and organs. All of the most impressive demonstrations of regenerative medicine, since its inception in 2002, have used stem cells to trigger healing in the patient.

Stem cell therapy as a therapeutic intervention for aging is rooted in 30 years of research and clinical application. Stem cell therapeutics have been successfully utilized around the world to treat a wide range of aging-related disorders including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, obesity, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, and other infirmities associated with aging metabolism.

As we age, our stem cell reserves with which we are born, decline. Our cells diminish in their ability to regenerate and repair tissue. Age-related changes occur in the skin, organs, sex glands, immune system, blood-forming system, muscles and other systems. These changes are all due to the decrease in the robustness of the cells and loss of stem cells. Because cells become progressively weaker over time and die, their replacement with new ones, can remediate aging. Evidence of an "anti-aging" effect of stem cells is reported in the medical literature. In one report, fetal liver cell and cord blood stem cell preparations improved immune function and hormonal balance in patients undergoing cosmetic procedures, and thereby enhanced the cosmetic outcome.

In this article, we will introduce the fascinating new science of stem cell therapeutics. Find out the basics about stem cell science, review some of the most recent milestones in stem cell therapeutics, and embrace the future potential for new medical treatments for aging-related disorders using stem cells.

Basics About Stem Cells

Stem cells are different from other types of cells in three ways:

* Stem cells are unspecialized. One of the fundamental properties of a stem cell is that it does not have any tissue-specific structures that allow it to perform specialized functions. Unspecialized stem cells are important to the human body because they can become specialized cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells.

* Stem cells are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods. Unlike muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells--which do not normally replicate themselves--stem cells may replicate many times, a process known as proliferation. A starting population of stem cells that proliferates for many months in the laboratory can yield millions of cells. If the resulting cells continue to be unspecialized, like the parent stem cells, the cells are said to be capable of long-term self-renewal.

* Stem cells can give rise to specialized cells. In a process known as differentiation, unspecialized stem cells give rise to specialized cells. Inside stem cells, cellular genetic signals trigger differentiation. Outside the cell, chemicals secreted by other cells, physical contact with...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A139602809