While the phrase “stem cells” is certainly well-known at this point, the details surrounding how they function, the current ways in which they are researched, and how they are obtained in the first place are less clear to the average individual.
Kenneth Pettine MD, a scientific research consultant from Fort Collins, Colorado, is able to provide the details surrounding stem cell research, as well as how these stem cells are initially obtained.
How Are Stem Cells Obtained?
While the process of obtaining stem cells involves extracting them from the human body, the process can differ somewhat depending on the type of stem cell being extracted.
Embryonic Stem Cells
Embryonic stem cells are regarded as the most potent type of stem cell. They are only found for a few days in the blastocyst of embryos, says Kenneth Pettine MD. These cells are called totipotent because they are the only stem cell that can become ANY cell in the body. These are the cells that are used to clone and create a duplicate animal or even a human. The fetal stem is the cell charged with the initial construction of the body and all of its complicated functions.
Embryonic stem cells are resultantly extracted from human embryos, but it is important to make the distinction that these embryos are created artificially, at in vitro fertilization clinics. In addition, before any extractions are performed, these embryos must be provided by consenting donors. Very little research is actually being performed using these cells because of the inherent risk they have of causing cancer in the recipient.
Adult Stem Cells
While it is true that adult stem cells do not, on average, perform at the same level as their embryonic counterparts, they are nonetheless the most useful type of stem cell for scientific clinical studies, says Kenneth Pettine MD. Their potential is still not fully known, as recent developments have shown that although adult stem cells have a naturally limited capacity, they can be artificially programmed to imitate embryonic stem cells, increasing their usefulness.
The process of extracting adult stem cells once again begins with consenting donors. In this case, they are young twenty something adults who will go to a clinic to undergo the extraction. The mesenchymal stem cells are typically taken from bone marrow. The process takes 30 minutes and is performed with IV sedation. Minor pain is a potential side effect, but donors can expect to be back to full activities with a few days.
Stem Cell Research
Primarily, mesenchymal stem cell research is conducted with the goal of restoring and revitalizing patients who suffer ailments that their bodies and own stem cells cannot completely remove on their own. This research examines both the effects of stem cells on the human body, as well as the effects of testing on the stem cells themselves, ideally optimizing them for human treatment. Trials may be conducted that measure the effects that stem cells have, and currently, the results look promising, with little to no side effects and permanent, substantial improvements to the ailments that patients experience.
Kenneth Pettine’s Final Thoughts
Currently, research trials are underway that include limited testing for things such as the relief of back pain, or the treatment of arthritis. According to Kenneth Pettine, the future of stem cell research includes such applications as growing entirely new organs, restoring motor functions, and blood transfusions from younger patients to older ones that act as a “genetic reset”.
As one of the top 50 Spine and Specialist Surgeons in the United States, Kenneth Pettine has had over 30 years of experience as an orthopedic surgeon. He attributes his success to a combination of a thorough dedication and precise application of existing methods, as well as a progressive attitude towards new developments in modern medicine.