Q What is a stem cell and how can it help my SCI?
After going to the Calcasieu Spinal Care Clinic for several months, you began to hear a lot of talk about stem cell research and the possibilities it could have for spinal cord injury victims. It seems like almost every day, someone was discussing how stem cells have the potential to practically cure SCIs all together; so what exactly are they and how can they affect SCI recovery?
Stem cells are basically an empty cell, with the potential to become anything it wants—while also having the capability of repairing itself. They’re mainly produced during pregnancy after the egg is fertilized. The mass of cells the fertilization produces is made up of stem cells which will eventually multiply and create all of the tissues, organs, and systems of the fetus—choosing which cells they need to duplicate for proper function. Stem cells can also be found in adults, throughout the body in various tissues.
Stem cell research explores the possibility that since these cells are basically empty, and can be forced to become a specific cell type, they’re ideal to rebuild or replace already specified “damaged” cells.
Repairing SCIs With Stem Cells
The potential of stem cell research and the hope that these cells can eventually regrow, repair, or replace damaged or unhealthy cells, is an extremely exciting prospect. Researchers, scientists, and parts of the medical community hope that one day soon, they will be able to use these cells to treat many degenerative diseases, injuries, and wounds—including spinal cord injuries. The theory is that the cells, if properly placed, will:
- Duplicate and colonize damaged areas by replacing damaged cells.
- Whilst duplicating, take up the properties of their surrounding cells, essentially copying or replicating healthy cells to fill in the void of the damaged cells.
- Reinstate at least some—if not all—of the function that was lost due to the previously damaged cells.
Stem cell research has made leaps and bounds within the last decade. With the continuation of further studies and a little luck, this research will hopefully soon become a safe and viable treatment option for not only the hundreds of SCI sufferers living in Louisiana, but the hundreds of thousands of SCI sufferers worldwide.
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