What is kidney failure?
Kidney failure manifests itself when the kidneys cannot filter water products from the blood. This in turn may lead to swelling of the body, increased levels of acid, potassium and phosphate, and decreased levels of calcium. Kidney failure is associated with bone and cardiovascular diseases. The two main forms of kidney failure are acute kidney injury, which is often reversible with adequate treatment, and chronic kidney disease, which is often not reversible.
What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cells have the remarkable property of developing into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In many tissues they also act as a sort of internal repair system, dividing practically without limit, in order to replenish other cells, during the entire life of the organism. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or to become a different type of cell with a more specialized role, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
The number of diseases in which stem cell treatments have been shown to be beneficial is still extremely restricted. The best one explained and most extensively used is blood stem cell transplantation used for treating diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system, or to restore the blood system after treatments for specific cancers. Some bone and skin diseases and corneal injuries can be treated by grafting tissue that depends on stem cells from these organs.
Stem cell therapy for kidney diseases
Different types of cells from the bone marrow have been tested in animals and in clinical studies for potential use in kidney disease. Out of all the cells investigated, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have shown the most promising results till now. Studies suggest that MSCs may be able to enhance the kidney’s ability to repair itself.
MSCs from the bone marrow can produce specialized bone, fat and cartilage cells. Researchers investigating the therapeutic MSCs effects within the kidney have suggested that these cells may release proteins that can stimulate kidney cell growth, inhibit cell death and that could encourage the kidney’s own stem cells to repair the damage. Further research is needed to establish whether these ideas are correct and how they could lead to a treatment for patients.
Another type of stem cell that scientists are studying regarding kidney research is the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC). Induced pluripotent stem cells work by reprogramming adult, specialized cells of the body to act like embryonic stem cells. They have the ability to develop into any type of cell or tissue. Researchers have been able to use iPSCs to recreate kidney cells in a very early stage of development. These very early kidney cells are similar to the cells found in the embryo, cells which turn into the kidney during fetal development.
Another approach to organ replacement, named organ scaffolds, is being researched. The method uses organs from which all cells have been removed. What remains, the extracellular matrix, is basically what gives the organ its shape. This scaffold is then seeded with cells from the patient, which are carefully gown to cover the scaffold, and thus creating a new organ. Although the risk of rejection is reduced, the problem is recreating organs with multiple cell types. Experiments on rats have shown promising results.
Risks and Benefits
Stem cell therapy is still a controversial field. Although many progresses are being made, the therapy is still being questioned on several grounds. The need of such therapy is unquestionable, and the benefits it could bring to people in need of such treatments could outweigh the risks. But until the therapy is perfected, there is still a long way to go.
Some of the benefits may include faster healing time, reduction of the transplant rejection rate, the elimination of the need for cadaveric donors and many others. This kind of therapy could be employed in detecting and healing diseases from fetal stages and also can prevent the apparition of congenital diseases from an early age. Stem cell therapy is truly a ground breaking success for medicine, if done right, but careful testing is needed.
Before running out to the first stem cell bank, you’d better take into account all the pros and cons. Stem cell therapy has been widely criticized by a certain part of the medical community for being too dangerous for human use. Also, some voices in the church have dubbed stem cell therapy as the first step in human cloning, still a taboo for many.
Who is a good candidate for stem cell therapy for kidney failure?
Although stem cell therapy promises to be a solution for many people suffering from various kidney problems, that doesn’t mean that anybody can benefit from it. There are a series of conditions that qualify a patient for being eligible for stem cell therapy:
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Stem Cell Therapy Abroad