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THE human body is a remarkable organism. It consists of many billions of individual cells that have the ability to communicate with one another in a very precise way.
At any one moment in time, countless pieces of information are being transmitted from cell to cell. These intracellular signals not only help to determine how we feel and function, but they also have a profound impact on the body's natural ability to heal itself.
If we are threatened by disease or injury, the immune system automatically responds by seeking to fight illness and repair damaged tissue. This is a form of 'cellular intelligence' that enables the human body to constantly regenerate and rejuvenate, particularly whilst we are young and healthy.
As our scientific knowledge of cellular communication continues to expand, it is driving a revolution in regenerative medicine. By boosting cellular communication we can potentially not only help to keep ageing at bay, but also develop new approaches to fighting illness and disease.
Given the right environment, the body's army of cells communicates very effectively in order to identify where and when any repairs are necessary. In particular, stem cells play a crucial role in regenerating damaged tissue and restoring organs back to a healthy state.
Please Note: Whilst the clinic does offer stem cell treatments, no treatment is undertaken until the patient has been reviewed by a consultant (who is a specialist in the relevant field) and approval has been given by the specialist. Patients are informed throughout the process of the limitations of stem cell treatment and it is for the patient to make a final decision in conjunction with his or her consultant.
The different types of stem cell that exist within the body are like military generals in a cellular army. They are able to read their surroundings and decide if action needs to be taken.
Stem cells have ability to multiply and also change into different types of cells through a process known differentiation in order to perform specific functions. They can also issue instructions to other types of regenerative cells.
Stem cells are therefore currently the subject of important medical research due to the powerful role they play in the healing process. Research into the use of stem cell therapy has shown promising results in relation to the following conditions:
Ulcers & Wounds
The Human Tissue Authority regulates research into stem cells within the UK, and in certain circumstances a limited number of patients may be able to receive monitored treatment.
Cellular intelligence profoundly affects the very nature of our being on every level. Hence, the rationale for using a cellular approach in regenerative medicine is not only based on science that is well established, but studies have also shown it has great potential for the future.
“I believe that regenerative medicine has the potential to enable all of us to lead a healthier, happier and longer life. In this respect, I believe that we are witnessing a new dawn in the progression of human knowledge.”
When our bodies are in a youthful state, our cells communicate in a healthy manner, as determined by our genes. These are the functioning part of our DNA, and they map everything about us.
They determine the enzymes, the growth factors and the hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen, which we need in order to grow, to develop, and to maintain stable health.
However, whilst the core structure of our DNA generally remains unchanged during our lifetime, our genes are not entirely fixed. Changes in our genetic code known as 'polymorphisms' can occur. Nature has devised this process for a good reason. Polymorphism is the mechanism through which we can adapt very quickly over a few short generations.
Individual genes can also be switched on or off during our lifetime, and experience epigenetic change through interaction with our external environment. If our genes were unable to adapt in this way, we would not be able to survive as well as a species. However, our genes can become damaged and as we get older, the ability of our cells to communicate deteriorates.
Factors such genomic instability, altered cellular communication, and stem cell exhaustion have been identified as among the 'Hallmarks of Ageing,' alongside a number of other biological changes.
Around 80% of cellular degradation is typically caused by environment and lifestyle, with the remaining 20% being determined by our DNA. This explains why some of us age faster than others. Hence, if we can improve cellular communication, research suggests that we can improve our wellbeing.
“A person's true biological age is invariably different from their chronological age. It is possible to estimate the rate at which an individual's cells are ageing by testing for a DNA methylation, which affects the expression of their genes.”
A major step forward has been to combine regenerative techniques with pre-emptive medicine so that these two highly effective approaches can work hand in hand. Pre-emptive medicine starts with an examination of an individual's DNA and genomic make-up. This can tell us which medical conditions and diseases that a particular person may be prone to in future.
We can then formulate a tailored approach to change the genomic balance through lifestyle and nutritional manipulation. We know for example that environmental factors, such as pollution, diet, nutrition, education, and recreation, all have an impact on the risks we face in later life.
A study published in 2021 the Institute of Functional Medicine in Washington, found that men aged between 50 and 72 who ate a diet rich in leafy greens and received exercise and relaxation advice were able turn back their biological clock by three years.
By combining DNA testing with regenerative techniques, scientists are developing new approaches that aim to restore the body's natural ability to heal and rejuvenate.
When our cells are injured or dying they send out distress signals. For example, immune cells are known to secrete protein messengers known as cytokines.
Regenerative cells - of which stem cells are the most important - are able to recognise these types of signals and react accordingly. Hence, they can settle inflammation, regulate and modify the immune system, and encourage the growth of new tissue in order to replace damaged cells.
This is opening up new doors in medicine. Research into stem cell therapy has shown promising results in a number of fields, including pioneering treatments for injuries, aesthetic treatments, and new ways to fight and prevent degenerative illnesses.
Conditions that studies suggest could potentially benefit include Arthritis, Bursitis, Cancer, COPD, Diabetes, Erectile Dysfunction, Hair Loss, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Scar Reduction, Scleroderma, Sports Injuries, Stroke, Surgical Healing, Tendinopathy, and Ulcers & Wounds.
In addition the stem cell therapy, there are a number of other types of regenerative treatments. These include:
• Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), which makes use of the patient's own blood platelets in order to boost healing and regeneration.
• Fat transfers using adipose tissue from the patient's own body, which is likely to be rich in regenerative cells.
• Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF), which is refined from a sample of patient's own fatty tissue or skin.
• Lipogems, which is a regenerative treatment using a patient's own adipose tissue.
#8226; Regenera, which makes use of the patient's own tissue in order to stimulate hair growth.
“Whilst it is important to stress that further research is needed before stem cells therapy becomes a standardised treatment, the benefits that cellular and regenerative techniques may unlock - both now and in the future - are potentially limitless.”
In order to understand why stem cells play such an important role, it is helpful to examine what happens at the beginning of human life. Embryonic and umbilical chord-derived stem cells are like a 'blank canvas.' They have two main functions that are of particular interest.
Firstly, they can multiply and replicate themselves without any degradation, so each new stem cell is as potent as the last.
Secondly, they are 'totipotent' which means they able to differentiate to become any type of cell within each of three different layers of tissue in a pre-embryo that eventually go on to form the human body.
Not all stem cells are totipotent. When they form within a layer they are instead 'multipotent'. They can still change into different types of cells to perform specific functions, but only within a given layer.
Stem cells are able to secrete their own cytokines and growth factors that encourage neighbouring cells to migrate to a distressed area in order to initiate repairs. If no other cells are available, they can become new cells.
For example, if we were to inject pluripotent stem cells into a liver, they would recognise their surroundings. They would then potentially be able to become new liver cells. They do this by reading various proteins that act as intracellular messengers within a given environment.
Scientific research into stem cells and their properties stretches back for over 40 years. However, humankind appears to have been aware of the regenerative properties of certain substances for many millennia.
Hippocrates recorded that in the 4th century BC, doctors attempted to treat burns using rendered fatty tissue, which we now know to be rich in regenerative cells.
The first organ transplant took place in 1954, but there were problems associated with cellular rejection. Regenerative medicine began in earnest in 1968, with the first transplantation of bone marrow.
Since then, we have identified human stem cells in placental cord blood (in 1978), and the first laboratory stem cell line was propagated in 1981.
“It is interesting that when we look back at the history of regenerative medicine, we see a great deal was written in ancient times. The human potential for regeneration was recorded in Greek mythology with Prometheus re-growing his liver after it had been pecked-out by an eagle.”
More recently it has been shown that given the right environment, adult skin cells that are 70 years old can go through a regression and become akin to 'embryonic' stem cells.
This discovery resulted in the Nobel Prize in Medicine being awarded to Sir John B Gordon and Shinya Yamanaka in 2012 for demonstrating that mature cells can be reprogrammed in this way. Their finding was a game-changer that led us to re-evaluate the way that we look at regenerative medicine.
This was by no means the first Nobel Prize to be awarded for stem cell research. In 2007, Professor Mario Capecchi of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah was one of three scientists who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work within the field of genetic targeting. This included developing techniques for the recombination of embryonic stem cells.
Even more recently, we have seen Nobel Prizes awarded for the related cellular field of gene editing. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry in October 2020 was shared by the French biochemist Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, and Professor Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, for their gene editing programme known as CRISPR. This technique could potentially in future be used to treat many hundreds of human medical conditions.
Below is a selection of other studies and research about stem cells and regenerative medicine that may be of interest.
Chu DT, Nguyen TT, Tien NLB, et al. Recent Progress of Stem Cell Therapy in Cancer Treatment: Molecular Mechanisms and Potential Applications. Cells. 2020;9(3):563. Published 2020 Feb 28. doi:10.3390/cells9030563
Shih-Lung Cheng, Ching-Hsiung Lin, Chao-Ling Yao, "Mesenchymal Stem Cell Administration in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: State of the Science", Stem Cells International, vol. 2017, Article ID 8916570, 14 pages, 2017
Tak, YJ, Lee, SY, Cho, AR, Kim, YS. A randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled clinical study of hair regeneration using adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract in androgenetic alopecia. STEM CELLS Transl Med. 2020; 9: 839– 849.
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