Types of Stem Cells: Their Sources, Uses, and Related Ethical Issues

Stem cells (SCs) are undifferentiated cells that are capable of differentiating into several different kinds of cells and thus repairing tissues in the body which are damaged. These cells are important in modern medicine as they provide an opportunity to treat and manage a number of diseases and health conditions, including those supposed to have no cure.

SCs can be found in certain tissues and organs in the body. Depending on their origin, there are some differences in their properties and uses. This article will answer the question what are the different types of stem cells, and where they come from, as well as discuss ethical concerns and their uses for certain diseases.

What are the three different types of stem cells?

Depending on the part of the body that they originate from, you can come up with three different kinds of stem cells in humans. The importance is that the type of SCs influences their potential to differentiate into specialized forms and provide therapeutic results. This, in turn, influences how widely they can be used for medical purposes.

You may hear some people ask, what the 3 types of stem cells are. And this will depend on the means of categorization. We will talk about three different types of stem cells for better understanding.

Types of Stem Cells: Their Sources, Uses, and Related Ethical Issues
Stem cells come in different types. These can all be used in different ways for medical purposes.

1. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs)

ESCs are taken from an embryo. As an embryo results from two parts: a sperm cell and an egg cell, the cells from the early embryo’s division are capable of becoming essentially any other cell in the body. This makes them pluripotent.

These cells are harvested from embryos in the first stages of their development. However, it is important to keep in mind that harvesting SCs from an embryo destroy it, which is why these types of stem cells have a lot of ethical discussion surrounding them.

 For this reason, at the Swiss Medica clinic, we never use embryonic or fetal stem cells for therapy.

2. Adult/Tissue-specific stem cells

These cells are those which can be found in the tissues of humans at any stage of their life after birth, including in newborn children. It is important to know that these are not specifically found in people in the adult stage of life but are meant to provide a contrast to the embryonic variety.

When you see people ask what are the kinds of stem cells, you may see adult SCs referred to as somatic stem cells. This simply refers to cells of non-reproductive use. The natural purpose of adult SCs is to help regenerate our bodies. This might be due to the tissues being damaged by injury or disease, and in some cases, are used to replace cells in the regular repair processes of the body.

These types of cells can be usually found in different adult tissues in smaller or bigger amounts.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)

MSCs are a kind of adult stem cell that is very popular in medicine due to their ability to treat a wide range of conditions. Their use also eliminates the ethical issue, since they are obtained from adult organisms with no harm.

These cells can be sourced from many parts of the body, which makes them relatively easy to harvest. They also provide proven therapeutic effects alongside being safe and avoiding adverse reactions. The procedure of the treatment with MSCs is well-tolerated in most cases. 

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are the type of stem cells we use at the Clinic for the therapy.

3. Induced pluripotent stem cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) are likely to be the type that is being excluded when we are talking about stem cell treatment in clinics. That is because they are not found naturally in the body. They are used in research and are under investigation at the moment, and they can provide the future of regenerative medicine

IPSCs are adult stem cells that have been genetically modified using laboratory technology to exhibit features similar to embryonic SCs, such as pluripotency (an ability to become any cell of the body). As a result, researchers and clinicians are able to obtain the benefits of embryonic stem cells without the ethical dilemma.

However, these cells are not as extensively researched as the other types of SCs. They still require more studies before their use will become more widespread.

Types of Stem Cells: Their Sources, Uses, and Related Ethical Issues
IPSCs are adult stem cells modified to have embryonic properties.

Sources of stem cells

Now that we have answered, what are the three different types of stem cells, let’s consider where each type is gotten from.

The source of SCs depends on whether they were harvested from embryos, fetuses, or adult tissue.

Embryonic/Fetal SCs

During in-vitro fertilization, healthcare workers fertilize more than just one egg to increase the chances of success. As many as 15 eggs could be retrieved from a woman’s ovaries, most of which will then be fertilized. 

If multiple eggs are successfully fertilized and develop into embryos, they will not all be implanted. These unused embryos that are several days old can then be donated to allow their SCs to be harvested for either research or medical purposes. 

Stem cells can also be sourced from early fetuses. However, their use raises not only an ethical question but also a safety issue. There is an assumption that fetal and embryonic SCs are prone to uncontrolled division when administered to a patient’s body, which may have a potential oncogenicity when applied in therapy.

To avoid the moral aspect and potential side effects, we refuse to use both of these types of cells in treatment at the Clinic.

Adult SCs

Adult stem cells refer primarily to the stem cells which are gotten from tissues of the body at any period of its life outside the mother’s womb. These also apply to tissues of the umbilical cord and the placenta, which are traditionally medical waste. As well as the placenta, the Wharton’s jelly in the cord is highly rich in ‘young’ stem cells. 

Adult SCs can also come from many tissues in the adult body. This can be from:

  • the bone marrow
  • the skin
  • fat (adipose tissue),
  • intestinal tissue
  • gingiva, and others.

To create a cell-based product, both the cells of the patient (autologous) and the material obtained from the donor can be used.

The use of stem cells in medicine

Due to their very unique ability to differentiate into several different kinds of cells, SCs are revered in medical practice due to their potential to cure conditions that are traditionally considered not to have a definitive cure or form of treatment.

They are not only able to replace diseased or damaged tissue in regions of the body being afflicted by disease, but it is also possible for these cells to release factors that stimulate the repair of abnormal tissue and decrease inflammation, leading to pain relief, restoration of mobility and improving the symptoms of a disease.

Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, COPD, autism, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease, have shown demonstrable improvement when treated with stem cells in professional facilities and by qualified medical staff. You can see the list of disorders being treated with cell-based products here. You can also contact our medical adviser to learn how you can benefit from stem cell therapy in your case.

Types of Stem Cells: Their Sources, Uses, and Related Ethical Issues
Stem cells are appreciated in medicine for their ability to treat many diseases.

How to enter a treatment program and what it includes

There are so many stem cell clinics around the world. However, as someone who is interested in entering a treatment program, it is very vital to find an authentic and effective clinic. 

Many of these clinics may claim to be effective but are not run by qualified, professional staff. It is important to be wary of clinics that give a 100% guarantee to cure conditions with stem cells. All patients are different, and as a result, they may see very different degrees of results.

Once you have located a clinic for your medical needs, you can reach out to them over the phone or by email.

Once the condition you are concerned about is assessed and you receive a consultation, you can then be scheduled for a date for treatment. A professional treatment program should consist of more than just stem cell infusions. Other treatments, such as physiotherapy in the case of a stroke, or developmental therapies in the case of autism, should be added to the management.

At Swiss Medica, we provide additional therapies to increase the effect of stem cell treatment. Contact us to learn how it works.

Get a free online consultation

Contact us to learn what your treatment program may include, what are the expected results, as well as the cost and duration of the treatment program.

Types of Stem Cells: Their Sources, Uses, and Related Ethical Issues
Dr. Aleksandra Fetyukhina, MD

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

The different types of stem cells

If you’ve been looking for an answer to, what are the kinds of SCs, this article has shown you the several stem cell types and uses that they have. There are a variety of otherwise incurable conditions that these cells provide hope for.

If you’re dealing with a disease or condition and looking for stem cell treatment, be sure to contact a qualified center with experience and testimonials from real patients. This way, you can be certain that you are in good hands.

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

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