Healthy Aging

Uncovering the Mystery: Where Do Stem Cells Come From?

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Uncovering the Mystery: Where Do Stem Cells Come From? about Stem Cell Restore

Stem cells are the body's key tool for fixing itself and replacing body parts when something goes wrong. Of course, the body's own supply of stem cells can't fix every problem and your body can't always come up with enough of them to cope with certain illnesses.

But research into stem cells promises to help fill that gap and enable the treatment of devastating diseases and conditions that today are untreatable. This healing potential possesses great possibilities and ongoing stem cell research could revolutionize the future of medicine.

Meanwhile, research into how natural substances used by traditional healers affects stem cells shows that those old-timers knew (and still know!) what they're doing. Studies of herbs and nutrients indicates that many of their healing powers come from their effects on reviving and protecting stem cells. And that is important knowledge you can use now for your own body -- which I will discuss in a moment.

At the same time, it's been a bumpy road for conventional medical researchers who have been trying to figure out the best ways to use stem cells for treating disease. The path to unlocking stem cells' full potential presents daunting challenges and controversies. But understanding where stem cells come from and how you can use natural methods to enhance your body's own production of stem cells doesn't run into the same kinds of difficulties.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stem cells are unspecialized cells with the ability to self-renew and differentiate into various specialized cell types, allowing them to play a crucial role in the body’s repair and regeneration processes.

  • Sources of stem cells used by researchers include include embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and umbilical cord blood.

  • Today's stem cell research presents ethical dilemmas and challenges but holds great promise for improving lives worldwide through emerging therapies and applications.

Understanding Stem Cells

Stem cells are the master repair cells of our bodies, the raw material for making new cells. They possess a chameleon-like talent for turning into a variety of different cell types as they mature. That versatility allows them to make themselves into the new cells needed for the body’s repair and regeneration processes when old cells wear out.

In the past few years, researchers have focused on answering the question of where stem cells come from, identifying the different types of stem cells that roam around the body and how to fix the body with stem cell therapy.

Their work has also revealed new findings about the natural ways the body uses to fix itself, what can go wrong in the repair process and which specialized cells are most important.

The Basic Functions of Stem Cells

Stem cells are unspecialized cells in the human body, capable of both producing identical copies of themselves and turning into a diverse range of cell types. This dual capacity allows them to play a crucial role in the body’s efforts to stay healthy.

Specialized stem cells can replace lost or damaged cells in the body, enabling organs to heal and function properly. For instance, researchers have found that when you break a bone, bone marrow stem cells rush in to repair the bone and firm it up. (If only Humpty Dumpty had had a better supply of stem cells he might have been able to put himself back together!)

While the embryonic stem cells that are briefly present in a fetus in a mother's womb can differentiate into virtually any cell type, adult stem cells that are located in organs like the heart, brain, liver and bone marrow are unspecialized cells that are usually only able to become a cell in the organ that contains them. So, for instance, if red blood cells need replacement, hematopoietic stem cells in the blood come in to play to take their place.

A few examples of the different types of adult stem cells and their potential applications in medicine and research include:

  • Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) -- stem cells found in bone marrow -- which can change into cartilage, bone and the fat cells found in bone. They are renowned for their potential in regenerative medicine since they can modulate the immune system by reducing inflammation.

  • Hematopoietic stem cells, which can differentiate into all types of new blood cells.

  • Neural stem cells, which can become various types of neurons and glial cells (cells that surround and support neurons) in the nervous system.

Where Do Different Types of Stem Cells Come From?

Embryonic stem cells are derived from early-stage embryos and possess the capacity to differentiate into any cell type. However, the use of these cells raises ethical concerns because they require the destruction of human embryos. That's why many people are firmly opposed to the creation of embryonic stem cell lines and embryonic stem cell research.

Adult stem cells, on the other hand, can be found in various tissues throughout the body but, unlike embryonic stem cells, can only differentiate into a more restricted range of specific cell types. Still, they play a vital role in tissue repair and regeneration where stem cells come into action.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to exhibit characteristics of embryonic stem cells, offering a promising alternative to human pluripotent stem cells without generating any controversy about where the stem cells come from.

Embryonic Stem Cells

Human embryonic stem cells are pluripotent (able to mature into various types of cells) and are usually taken from fertilized human eggs that are no more than five days old. They are also called totipotent cells -- meaning they can turn into just about any kind of cell.

These cells are extracted through donations with informed consent from people who donate them and then the stem cell lines are grown in specialized solutions in laboratories. Using these stem cell lines offers great potential for research and therapy, but many people object because this process destroys human embryos.

The stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood are a source of stem cells called perinatal stem cells. These stem cells have many potential applications in regenerative medicine. They are capable of differentiating into a variety of cell types, and they can also modify the immune system. Cord blood stem cells have been successfully used to treat a large number of diseases. Studies have shown the capabilities of how these stem cells treat about 80 diseases, particularly those that affect the immune system and blood.

Adult Stem Cells

Adult stem cells are found in a variety of tissues in the body, including bone marrow, fat, and peripheral blood (the blood that circulates throughout the body). These stem cells typically can only mature into the different cell types of the organs that contain them. Adult stem cells can be harvested through various methods, including peripheral blood stem cell donation, bone marrow extraction and tissue fat extraction.

Despite their potential, adult stem cells may not be as adaptable and resilient as embryonic stem cells and their ability to generate all cell types can be limited. That restricts their use in treating certain diseases. However, the use of adult stem cells does not present the kind ethical issues conjured up by the use of embryonic stem cells. That makes them more acceptable to more people and more readily available for stem cell treatment.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells. Medical folks cook these up by putting specific genes into adult cells, effectively reprogramming them to become more versatile and capable of differentiating into any cell type in the body. This innovative approach offers a potential way to avoid the ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cells (no required destruction of embryos) while producing similar results.

Plus, they're helpful in other ways. When you use iPSCs derived from a patient’s own cells -- donated stem cells that come from the person being treated -- it lowers the risk that a person's immune system will reject and attack the new stem cells being used in medical treatments. This exciting development in stem cell research holds great promise for developing new techniques for regenerative medicine and figuring out the causes of various diseases that are still mysterious.

Diet and Lifestyle: Helping Your Stem Cells Do a Better Job Naturally

When stem cells fall down on the job, your health and well being suffers. But you can give your stem cells some much-needed support fairly easily – by tweaking your diet and lifestyle. In fact, the results of making these lifestyle changes can be life-saving.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can optimize the body's innate regenerative capacities and contribute to overall well-being. For example, your diet should include:

  • Micronutrients: Essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, play important roles in supporting stem cell function and overall health.

  • Antioxidants: Foods rich in antioxidants, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, help reduce oxidative stress and support the health of stem cells.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties that can promote a healthier environment for stem cells.

  • Protein: Adequate protein intake is important for cell repair and growth, which are essential for the maintenance of stem cells.

  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for cellular function and overall health. Water supports various physiological processes, including those involving stem cells.

  • Caloric Intake and Fasting: Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting have been shown to influence stem cell function. Controlled fasting may trigger the regeneration of stem cells and promote their activity.

  • Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise improves circulation, which can enhance the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to stem cells. Strength training can stimulate the release of growth factors that contribute to tissue repair and regeneration.

  • Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for the body's overall healing and repair processes, including stem cell maintenance. During sleep, the body produces hormones that support tissue growth and repair, contributing to the function of stem cells.

  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively impact stem cells and overall health. Engaging in stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness, can promote a healthier environment for stem cells.

  • Avoidance of Harmful Substances: Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, which can have detrimental effects on stem cells and cellular health.

  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can support the body's overall health, including the function of stem cells.

  • Avoidance of sugar: As we've written about before, one of the worst lifestyle choices for healthy stem cells is eating too much sugar.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Supports Stem Cells

Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you turn on the healing power of your stem cells through acupuncture, which we've discussed before.

Another way that you can help your own body potentially produce more stem cells and aid the ones you have in doing a better job is to make use of a natural chemical called icarriin. This compound is found in the Chinese herb known as Bishop's Hat (Epimediuma).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bishop's Hat has long been used as an anti-aging tonic reputed to give you back some your youthful vigor. And studies of this herb's natural components -- particularly icarriin -- show its rejuvenation benefits.

Research shows that icariin is a champ at supporting stem cell repair of:

  • Kidneys

  • Bone

  • Heart

  • Brain

  • Cartilage

  • Bone marrow

In one lab test, icariin quickened healing of damaged kidneys by quintupling the number of stem cells that rushed in to fix things up and regenerate new cells.

In another test on animals, Asian researchers found that this compound could speed up the healing of bone fractures. In this research, the scientists noted that icariin gave stem cells a kick in the pants to speed up their work on knitting together bone breaks.

Resveratrol: Regenerating Healthy Brain Cells

In the brain, stem cells are responsible for building new neurons and helping to shape neural networks that allow the brain the acquire vast amounts of knowledge. In an effort to help brains age better, researchers are learning how to use adult stem cells as tool for brain repair in people who may be suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In this research, they are finding that resveratrol -- a natural chemical found in foods like grapes, peanuts, chocolate and berries -- can help those stem cells convert (differentiate) more efficiently into the right kinds of cells the brain needs. These researchers predict-- and so have we-- that resveratrol will become an important tool for slowing the aging process.

That's why Green Valley Natural Solutions formulated Stem Cell Restore with this red grape compound shown in clinical studies to support your body's generation of healthy stem cells. With extracts of grape seed and black currants, as well as a patented extract of Sea Buckthorn berry called CyanthOx™30 for next-level anti-aging support.

Applications of Stem Cells in Medicine

Stem cells hold immense potential for a wide range of medical applications, including regenerative medicine, drug testing and development, in vitro fertilization, and transplantation.

In this section, we delve deeper into these applications, examining how stem cells are already being used to revolutionize the treatment of various illnesses and conditions like cancer and heart disease

Regenerative Medicine

One of the important ways stem cells are being used in medicine is to supply stem cells to generate healthy heart cells for folks who have heart disease. Another medical use of stem cells is to replace damaged skin cells in burn victims.

Doctors in the field of regenerative medicine also rely on lab grown stem cells. As we've written about before, they inject undifferentiated stem cells into their patients to regenerate fresh cells, which in turn creates more robust tissue and organ systems in the body. These new cells can help reduce the symptoms of aging such as memory loss, aches and pains, wrinkled skin and degenerative diseases like cancer and dementia.

Other potential applications of stem cells in regenerative medicine show promise to help with:

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Diabetes

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Severe burns

  • Osteoarthritis

With ongoing research and advancements in stem cell therapy, the possibilities for future stem cell therapies are vast and pretty exciting.

Drug Testing and Development

Stem cells also are a growing factor in drug testing and formulating new drugs. Drug companies maintain banks of stem cells to produce heart, liver and kidney cells that possess many different genetic signatures to see if these cells suffer toxic effects from drugs that are being developed.

However, the use of stem cells in drug development is still costly and complex. Plus, the reliability of the results you get from stem cell testing is still not as dependable as tests on the human body. But researchers intend to keep looking for ways to improve the methods for testing drugs with stem cells .

Transplantation

Stem cell transplantation, including bone marrow transplants, is a well-established treatment for certain blood disorders and cancers, such as leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma. In these stem cell transplants, healthy bone marrow stem cells -- hematopoietic stem cells -- are infused into the patient’s body to replace damaged or diseased cells, effectively restoring the body's ability to produce healthy blood cells. These stem cell transplants, using bone marrow cells, have enjoyed great success in treating these conditions.

Ongoing research is exploring the potential of stem cell transplantation for other conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and genetic disorders. With the continuous advancements in stem cell research, the potential applications of stem cell transplantation in the treatment of various diseases and conditions continue to expand, offering hope to countless patients around the world.

If you do receive a stem cell transplant, studies show that you should make sure your diet (or supplements) include plenty of vitamin D and that you are consuming a sufficient amount of protein. Both of those are important for the success of the therapy. Researchers say you need twice as much protein after the transplant as does a person who hasn't hade the procedure.

Ethical Considerations and Controversies

The use of stem cells in research and therapy is not without its challenges and controversies, especially when it comes to the use of embryonic stem cells. In this section, we will delve into the ethical considerations and controversies surrounding stem cell research and therapy, exploring the debates and alternative approaches to address these concerns.

The ethical considerations of stem cell research and therapy are complex and multifaceted.

The Debate Over Embryonic Stem Cells

The central difficulty with employing embryonic stem cells for research and therapy is the concern that destroying embryos means the loss of human life. That goes against many people's religious beliefs. It has led to debates about the moral status of embryos and the question of whether and embryo deserves the same rights as a human being. A central problem in this issue is that people can't quite agree on exactly when life begins.

The National Institutes of Health formulated guidelines for human stem cell research in 2009, which address some of these ethical concerns and set strict regulations for the use of embryonic stem cells in research. However, the debate over the use of embryonic stem cells continues, with many calling for alternative approaches that do not involve the destruction of embryos and don't require us to extract stem cells from embryos.

Alternative Approaches

As a response to the ethical concerns surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells, researchers have developed alternative approaches to stem cell research and therapy. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), for example, are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells, offering a promising alternative without the associated thorny and troubling ethical issues.

Adult stem cells, which can be found in various tissues throughout the body, also present a more ethically acceptable alternative to embryonic stem cells. While these alternative approaches may not yet offer the same potential as embryonic stem cells, they represent significant advancements in the field of stem cell research and therapy by side-stepping the ethical objections people raise in opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells.

Harvesting and Storing Stem Cells

Collecting and storing stem cells for future use is becoming increasingly important as the potential applications of stem cell therapy continue to expand. In this section, we will explore the various methods of harvesting and storing stem cells, and their importance in providing a valuable resource for future medical treatments and research.

Stem cells, can be harvested from a variety of sources, such as umbilical cord blood cells.

Extraction Techniques

Stem cells can be extracted from various sources using specialized techniques and procedures. For example, embryonic stem cells are obtained through donations with informed consent from donors and then grown in specialized solutions in laboratories. Adult stem cells can be harvested through various methods, such as peripheral blood stem cell donation (taking out stem cells that circulate in the blood), bone marrow extraction, and tissue fat extraction. We've written in the past about the benefits of using stem cells from fat tissue because they are more likely to remain stable and healthy.

Umbilical cord blood is another valuable source of stem cells, which can be collected shortly after birth using a needle to extract the cord blood and transferring it into a specially designed bag for preservation. The preserved stem cells can be stored for potential future use in medical treatments and research.

Stem Cell Banking

Stem cell banking refers to the collection and storage of stem cells for possible future use in medical treatments and research. Stem cell storage laboratories take stem cells out of blood and tissue and then preserve them in a liquid nitrogen storage tank.

If you are having a baby and decide to bank stem cells from your child, those stem cells can be preserved and used later in your child's life if they are needed for medical treatment when they get older. If you decide to have this procedure done, make sure you use a company with a reliable reputation and one that is easy to communicate with.

The Future of Stem Cell Research and Therapy

The results of the many studies into stem cells shows that the future of stem cell research and therapy is exciting indeed. The rapid pace of research promises to bring great leaps forward in treating diseases and crippling conditions that can befall any of us. Still, challenges and obstacles remain in understanding the best and most effective methods for using stem cells.

In this final section, we will explore the ongoing advancements in stem cell research and therapy, as well as the emerging therapies and applications that hold promise for the future.

Emerging Therapies and Applications

So many new therapies and applications are being developed in the field of stem cell research that it's hard to keep up with all the new discoveries. It seems like only a matter of time until stem cell therapy will be available to help folks overcome illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

The list of emerging therapies and applications for stem cells is extensive:

  • Treatment of genetic disorders

  • Treatment of autoimmune diseases

  • Treatment of degenerative conditions

  • Treatment of inflammatory conditions

  • Treatment of neurological conditions

  • Treatment of orthopedic conditions

  • Treatment of hematological malignancies

  • Treatment of burn wounds

  • Treatment of ocular conditions

  • Treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

As researchers continue to explore the potential of stem cells and work to overcome these challenges, the future of stem cell research and therapy holds great promise for improving the lives of countless patients around the world.

Summary

In conclusion, stem cells offer immense potential for revolutionizing medicine, with applications ranging from regenerative medicine to drug testing and development, and transplantation. The ongoing research and advancements in stem cell therapy hold great promise for the treatment of numerous diseases and conditions. However, the field of stem cell research and therapy is not without its challenges and controversies, particularly regarding the use of embryonic stem cells. As scientists continue to explore the potential of stem cells and develop alternative approaches, the future of stem cell research and therapy remains an exciting and rapidly evolving area of medicine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What lifestyle measures can help increase the body's stem cells?

Two of the most important measures you can take for improving the function of stem cells in your body is to get some exercise and make sure you get enough vitamin D.

Lab tests with animals at Stanford show that exercise "has the ability to rejuvenate stem cells and improve tissue regeneration." They note that this is particularly important for fighting against the aches and pains and illnesses of aging.

A study of the effects of vitamin D demonstrates that this nutrient is crucial for supporting the regenerative work of stem cells in keeping the body's blood vessels functioning properly.

Research shows that vitamin D can be especially crucial for helping stem cells heal fractures more effectively.

Where are stem cells sourced from?

Stem cells are sourced from adult body tissues, embryos, fetal tissues and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

These stem cells can be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disorders. They can also be used to regenerate damaged tissues and organs.

Do stem cells come from fetuses?

Stem cells can be sourced from embryos only a few days old, as well as from adult tissues. Fetal stem cells are obtained from the placenta, amniotic fluid, and umbilical cord blood in a minimally invasive manner.

What is a stem cell exactly?

Stem cells are the body’s master cells which have the potential to develop into many different types of cells and can be used to repair, restore, replace and regenerate cells in the body. They are found both in the human embryo and in adults and are key components in procedures such as bone marrow transplants.

What are the three primary types of stem cells?

The three primary types of stem cells are embryonic, adult, and induced pluripotent stem cells, all offering unique potential for the field of medicine.

These stem cells can be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, from cancer to neurological disorders. They can also be used to regenerate tissue and organs, and to create new treatments for previously untreatable conditions.

What are the potential applications of stem cells in regenerative medicine?

Stem cells have the potential to replace lost or damaged cells and tissues, making them a key part of regenerative medicine for conditions such as heart disease, neurological disorders, and autoimmune diseases.

These conditions are often debilitating and life-threatening, and stem cell treatments offer a potential solution. Stem cells can be harvested from a variety of sources, including umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and adipose (fatty) tissue.

The potential for the use of stem cells for revolutionizing medicine seems to be just about limitless.


Liu, L; et al "Exercise reprograms the inflammatory landscape of multiple stem cell compartments during mammalian aging" Cell Stem Cell. 2023 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37080206/

Huang, Z et al, "Icariin protects rats against 5/6 nephrectomy-induced chronic kidney failure by increasing the number of renal stem cells" BMC Complement Altern Med 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26490949/

Zhang, X; et al "Effects of icariin on the fracture healing in young and old rats and its mechanism." Pharm Biol 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8439244/

Songsaad, "Potential of resveratrol in enrichment of neural progenitor-like cell induction of human stem cells from apical papilla." Stem Cell Res Ther. 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33317638/

Arain, A; et al "Vitamin D deficiency and graft-versus-host disease in hematopoietic stem cell transplant population." Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Therapy, 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658387618300918

No Listed Author; "Nutrition after Transplant." BMT infonet.org https://www.hindawi.com/journals/sci/2018/6958713/

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