Stem Cell Treatments for Chronic Pain
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the cells from which all other types of cells are generated. Either in the body or in a laboratory, they can divide to form daughter cells. They can then become new stem cells or specialized stem cells, such as heart cells, blood cells, bone cells, brain cells, or muscle cells. Stem cells are the only cell in the human body that can split into new cell types.
Mesenchymal stem cells
Also referred to as MSCs, mesenchymal stem cells are isolated from the stroma, which is the connective tissue that surrounds other tissues and organs. They were initially discovered in the bone marrow and shown to develop bone, cartilage and fat cells. Since the discovery, MSCs have been grown from other tissues, including fat and cord blood.
Stem cells and chronic pain
Various chronic pain conditions that are unresponsive to standard medical treatment may benefit from stem cell therapy. Studies involving the use of MSCs as a treatment option show promising results. Additional clinical studies are needed to affirm the efficacy of MSC use in the treatment of chronic pain conditions. Stem cell therapies are currently considered experimental and not covered by insurances.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The possibility of reversing neural damage and halting the progression of the condition is being explored with stem cell treatment. Although in the initial stages, results indicate that it could be a safe method of treatment.
Spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injuries involve damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. It could potentially benefit from stem cell therapy. Clinical trials have indicated that the injection of stem cells isolated from bone marrow have helped to regain lost sensation and mobility. Results thus far are promising; however, additional research is needed.
Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that destroys the glands that produce saliva and tears. This results in dry mouth and dry eyes. Clinical trials have shown that the infusion of mesenchymal stem cells are able to suppress autoimmunity and restore salivary gland secretion.