Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have ability to self-regenerate and ability to differentiate into other cells. Stem cell technology is being used in treating many diseases those formerly have no treatment, but most of them are in elementary stage. In recent years, clinical trials with stem cells have taken the emerging field in many new directions. The stem cells can be derived from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, placental, mesenchymal cells etc.
A review article says that there are many studies involving autologous therapies and some allogenic therapies, based on the recovery of mobilized bone marrow cells, including mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and adipose derived stem cells that also include the stromal or adherent cell type that has an MSC phenotype. Human umbilical cord blood cells have been used in a large number of trials for paraplegia, ataxia, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, multiple system atrophy, motor neuron disease, among other indications, without severe immunological response. Placenta-derived stem cells are being considered for similar uses and are in Phase III clinical trial for critical limb ischemia by Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics.
According to clinicaltrials.gov, mesenchymal stem cells are being used in many therapeutic areas like bone diseases, cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, gastro intestinal diseases, immune rejection / autoimmunity, neurodegenerative disorders and many other therapeutic areas. Stem cell research in neurodegenerative disorders (ex: spinal cord injury) is still in developmental stage. The use of stem cells in repairing the damaged spinal cord is still in animal testing and phase I clinical trials.
In a recent interview given by Prof. Alan Mackay-Sim, Director of National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research in Australia, he has explained Phase I clinical trials in exploring the use of stem cells for spinal cord injury treatment. These early trials are showing roles for stem cells both in replacing damaged tissue as well as in providing extracellular factors that can promote endogenous cellular salvage and replenishment. The Professor warns that there were no fully tested stem cell treatments that have passed all stages of clinical trials. Yet, in several countries, stem cells therapy is being used to treat spinal cord injury (SPI) although such therapies are not scientifically proved.