January 22, 2022 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team
Updated Version - July 21, 2023
Cell therapy or Cellular Therapy is a type of therapy, where viable cells are insinuated, grafted, or injected into a patient to create a medicinal effect. It is a technology that relies on replacing diseased or dysfunctional cells with healthy, functioning ones.
Cell therapy originated in the nineteenth century when scientists experimented by injecting animal material in an attempt to prevent and treat illness. Cell therapy aims to introduce new, healthy cells into a patient's body, to replace the diseased or missing ones. Cell Therapy has application in some types of cancer, neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig disease), spinal cord injuries, and diabetes. A great variety of cells can help in cell therapy including blood and bone marrow cells, mature and immature solid tissue cells, adult stem cells, and, most controversially, embryonic stem cells.
How are Stem Cells used to Develop Cell Therapies?
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can grow into other functional cell types. Importantly, some types of stem cells can be grown outside of the human body, thus allowing the production of a large number of cells required for successful applications of cell therapy in medicine. Two main types of stem cells are being explored in the context of cell therapy: pluripotent stem cells and tissue-specific (also referred to as an adult) stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells can produce any cell type in the human body. Therefore, pluripotent stem cells provide a potential source of cells that are otherwise inaccessible or present in low numbers in human bodies. They can also be maintained and multiplied outside the human body for extended periods. Unlike pluripotent stem cells which can give rise to any human cell type, tissue-specific stem cells give a much more limited repertoire of functional cell types.
How does Cell Therapy Work?
Stem cell therapy works by promoting natural repair processes of cells, tissues, and organs that have been infected and are preventing the natural recovery of cells. Since cell therapy can trigger your body's natural healing responses, usually an injection of stimulating cellular material is delivered to an injured or compromised location of your body. In some cases, the cells come from a donor, in other cases, they are taken from your own body.
Either way, these cells can then attempt to activate the body's natural healing responses. Think about when you get a cut and platelets rush to the injury site to help repair it. That is exactly what PRP does by injecting platelets near a wound or injury, and other forms of cellular therapy can be used to treat many injuries and conditions. Once these injected cells recruit local cells to the site of the problem, they can work to try and fix the issue. Since there are so many in one place, it could accelerate or improve your body's natural healing at that location. Sometimes, it even has unanticipated benefits to nearby areas.
Top 10 Benefits of Cell Therapy
Well, different types of cell therapy can treat a wide variety of injuries and illnesses, treat many conditions, or enhance your look and improve aesthetics.
Here we have listed some of the benefits Cell Therapy provides:
- Help patients recover more quickly and fully from injuries, including sports injuries and surgeries.
- Give most patients the freedom to go home the same day and return to work the next day.
- Restore damaged neurological cells and treat certain neurological conditions.
- Serve as a possible alternative to surgery in some cases.
- Treat certain autoimmune conditions.
- Heal patients with their body's regenerative processes.
- Repair, regenerate and renew old, damaged, or degraded cells.
- Give you a healthier, more youthful appearance.
- Significantly reduce your pain and increase your mobility.
- It helps in the treatment of several neurological disorder conditions like spinal cord injuries, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, motor neuron disease, muscular dystrophy.
Future of Cellular Therapy
As research continues to advance each year, people have begun to work on using cells to create bio-engineered organs, even hearts, and livers. One day this could end donor lists since a healthy organ could be made just for the patient. Cellular therapy has already proven its ability to cure some forms of cancer like Leukemia and only continues to grow in versatility and power as we come to better understand it.
Eventually, cellular therapy may be one of the primary forms of treatment for many patients. Since it is typically a one-and-done procedure that can last up to ten years, you may not need medication. Imagine not having to get a bypass or having to get surgery for a bum knee.
These are the possibilities cell therapy offers to future generations, and if we're fortunate, we may get to explore the benefits of these treatments sooner than you'd think.
What are the key benefits of cellular therapy?
Cellular therapy offers the potential to treat a wide range of diseases, including many that currently have no or limited treatment options. This includes various forms of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, spinal cord injuries, and certain genetic disorders. By replacing damaged cells with healthy ones, cellular therapy can promote healing and disease management.
How does cellular therapy work in cancer treatment?
In cancer treatment, cellular therapies like CAR-T therapy can be used. This involves modifying a patient's own immune cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. This can lead to a targeted destruction of cancer, with less impact on healthy cells compared to traditional chemotherapy.
Can cellular therapy help in treating neurodegenerative diseases?
Cellular therapy may offer hope for treating neurodegenerative diseases by replacing damaged or lost neurons with healthy cells. This has the potential to slow disease progression and improve symptoms, although research is still in early stages.
What role does cellular therapy play in treating genetic disorders?
For genetic disorders, cellular therapy can potentially replace malfunctioning cells with healthy ones. In conditions like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, this could mean introducing cells with a correct version of the faulty gene, although this is an area of ongoing research.
Can cellular therapy assist in treating autoimmune diseases?
In autoimmune diseases where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells, cellular therapy can potentially help by introducing cells that modulate the immune response. This is a promising area of research for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
How can cellular therapy contribute to wound healing and tissue repair?
Cellular therapy can enhance wound healing and tissue repair by delivering cells that can promote the growth of new tissue. This could be particularly beneficial for non-healing wounds or in situations where tissue regeneration is needed, such as after a severe burn or injury.
Can cellular therapy be used in regenerative medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a key application for cellular therapy, with the potential to grow new organs and tissues from a patient's own cells. This could dramatically improve treatment options for organ failure and reduce dependence on organ transplants.
Is cellular therapy used in treating heart diseases?
In heart diseases, especially after heart attacks, cellular therapy can potentially help repair damaged heart tissue. This could improve heart function and reduce symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
What are the risks and side effects associated with cellular therapy?
Like all treatments, cellular therapy can have risks and side effects, which can vary depending on the specific therapy. These may include immune reactions, infection risks from the cell collection process, and the potential for cells to behave unpredictably once introduced into the body.
What is the role of stem cells in cellular therapy?
Stem cells are a key component of many cellular therapies, as they have the unique ability to develop into many different types of cells. This means they can be used to replace a wide variety of damaged cells in the body, from neurons to skin cells.
Is cellular therapy a personalized treatment?
Yes, many forms of cellular therapy are personalized, meaning they use a patient's own cells. This can reduce the risk of immune rejection and make the therapy more effective.
Is cellular therapy a viable option for diabetes treatment?
Cellular therapy holds promise for diabetes treatment, particularly for type 1 diabetes. This could involve introducing insulin-producing cells to replace the ones destroyed by the immune system, potentially reducing or even eliminating the need for insulin injections.
How is cellular therapy used in treating spinal cord injuries?
In spinal cord injuries, cellular therapy could potentially be used to replace or repair damaged nerve cells, and to promote the growth of new nerve tissue. This could help restore function and mobility, although this is an area of active research.
Is cellular therapy a one-time treatment?
This depends on the specific condition and therapy. Some cellular therapies may provide long-lasting benefits after a single treatment, while others may require repeated treatments over time.
Does cellular therapy offer a cure for diseases or only symptom management?
Cellular therapy has the potential to offer cures for certain diseases by addressing the root cause of the disease. However, in other cases, it may help manage symptoms or slow disease progression.
What are the future prospects of cellular therapy?
The future of cellular therapy is promising, with ongoing research into new applications and ways to make the therapies more effective and safer. Advances in gene editing technologies, like CRISPR, could also open up new possibilities for cellular therapy.
Can cellular therapy be used to treat lung diseases?
In lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cellular therapy might offer a way to repair damaged lung tissue. While research is still ongoing, early results have been promising.
How is cellular therapy administered?
Cellular therapy can be administered in various ways, depending on the specific therapy and the disease being treated. This can include direct injection into a specific site, intravenous infusion, or even surgical implantation.
What is the process of cellular therapy?
The typical process for cellular therapy involves collecting cells (either from the patient or a donor), processing and potentially modifying these cells in a lab, and then reintroducing them into the patient's body to treat a specific disease.
Are there ethical issues related to cellular therapy?
There can be ethical considerations with certain types of cellular therapy, particularly those involving embryonic stem cells. However, many recent advancements in cellular therapy focus on using a patient's own cells, which avoids many of these ethical issues.