The Potential of Stem Cells in Bodily Repair
By Jarryd Davis (u3049375)
While stem cells are considered a somewhat touchy issue, with the morality of their use and
extraction being in a ‘moral grey area,’ the potential for stem cells to repair the body is
undeniable. But, before we look at the possible applications of stem cells in bodily repair,
we must first get a grasp on what stem cells are...
A simplified way of explaining what stem cells are, without the use of medical jargon, is to
describe them as an ‘unformed cell.’ As we are formed in the uterus, and grow when we are
young, our body must form specialised parts for specialised functions. Understandably,
these specialised parts require their own specialised cells, so that these body parts are
discernable from others. The cells in the forming body, prior to being assigned as a
specialised cell for a certain body part or function, are ‘blank. These ‘blank’ cells are known
as pluripotential cells. These blank cells are assigned to become certain cell types, as desired
by the forming body. Hence, a pluripotential cell can form anything from a skin cell to a
brain cell. As we grow, the vast majority of these blank cells are assigned a specific role, and
become a specialised cell. They then replicate to form the cells around them, and thus form
certain parts of the body.
The ability of stem cells to replicate into specialised cells is why stem cells have such an
amazing potential in medical applications. Say, for example, a person suffers a heart attack,
which causes extensive damage to the heart muscles. Stem cells can be applied to the
damaged heart, and, once there, the cells will begin to replicate the muscle cells of the
heart that have been damaged, repairing damaged and possibly deteriorated tissue. This is
only a single, isolated example of how stem cells can be used in bodily repairs. The following
article will provide numerous detailed examples of how stem cells can repair numerous
types of bodily damage and trauma.
By Jarryd Davis
Stem Cells and GVHD
Not only are stem cells capable of replacing almost any conceivable part the human body,
they are also a revolutionary advancement in medicine in regards to GVHD’s (Graft Versus
When a patient receives a transplant, for example, a liver transplant, we are all aware of the
possibility that the patient may still die, due to a complication we know as ‘transplant
rejection.’ This is a simplified way of explaining Graft Versus Host Diseases to those who are
not familiar with medical jargon. A GVHD occurs when a foreign body is placed within a
patient, such as a replacement heart, a bone marrow transplant, or even a blood
transfusion. The patient’s immune system detects the transplant, and does not recognise it
as part of the patient’s body. The immune system then undergoes the procedure for taking
care of the ‘intruder.’ This procedure is similar to what happens when we catch a virus, or
get an infection. The immune system attacks the unrecognised foreign body, and destroys it.
While this is a good thing in regards to harmful bugs and bacteria, it is not good when the
immune system destroys a potentially life-saving transplant.
It has been found that in mesenchymal (stem) cell grafts, the patients are far less likely to
suffer from GVHD’s. In an experiment run to investigate the potential of stem cells in
fighting GHVD’s (1), It was found that “acute GVHD disappeared completely in six of eight
patients.” The experiment involved treating 8 subjects with mesenchymal stem cells to fight
GHVD’s in the patients. Although 2 of the subjects died from undetermined causes, the
treatment was overall a resounding success, with 5 of the subjects surviving for months and
The application of stem cells to the transplant is effective, as the stem cells replicate the
cells around them. This means that they replicate the DNA of the cells around them (which
we all know cells do). By replicating the host’s DNA, the cells essentially become a
recognised part of the host’s body, preventing the immune system from attacking the
By Jarryd Davis
Stem Cell Treatment of Leukaemia
In another experiment conducted of on the reparative abilities of stem cells (2), stem
cell treatment was shown to be able to effectively treat leukaemia . “Since allogeneic
stem-cell transplantation can induce curative graft-versus-leukemia reactions in
patients with hematologic cancers, we sought to induce analogous graft-versus-
tumor effects in patients with metastatic renal-cell carcinoma by means of
nonmyeloablative allogeneic peripheral-blood stem-cell transplantation.” This
basically means that they tested the reaction of leukaemia patients by using
peripheral-blood-stem cell transplantation. In the experiment, of the 19 patients were
given stem cell grafts. The cancer of 10 of the patients was observed to go in
regression, and 9 patients lived for a median 402 days after the treatment.
The experiment concluded “Nonmyeloablative allogeneic stem-cell transplantation
can induce sustained regression of metastatic renal-cell carcinoma in patients who
have had no response to conventional immunotherapy.” Basically, the research
showed that stem cell therapy treatment was shown to have effectively caused the
regression of cancer in leukaemia sufferers.
Adult stem cell therapy in stroke
It is known that as we age, our brains lose the ability to repair damage that it may
sustain. To those in medicine, it is also known that once neurons are damaged, they
will never repair themselves, leading to permanent brain damage. In recent studies,
it has been shown that stem cells can effectively repair and replicate damaged
neurons; restoring damage done to the brain such as stroke damage and trauma.
Stem cells, being able to repair practically any body part, are able to regenerate
damaged neurons, by replicating and forming a new, functioning neurons out of the
It has recently been discovered that small amounts of endogenous stem cells remain
in the body throughout our life, and can be actively extracted and applied to the brain
to repair stroke damage and disorders such as cerebral ischemia. It has also recently
been proven that “hematopoietic stem cells, either after stimulation of endogenous stem
cell pools or after exogenous hematopoietic stem cell application (transplantation),
improve functional outcome after ischemic brain lesions” (3).
Stem Cell Reparation of the Spine
Just like organs, bones are initially formed in the body by stem cells. Similarly to
organs, stem cells can also be used to repair broken or damaged bones, and even
help ease disorders such as osteoporosis. In recent studies, stem cells have been
proven to be able to repair bones, and even the intervertebral discs of the spine. This
has huge implications in medical science, as this means that a cure for spine related
paralysis can be found in stem cell treatments.
In an experiment conducted on rats, scientists destroyed intervertebral spinal discs
of several rats, and treated the rats with stem cell therapy to test whether or not the
discs could be repaired. “At 28 days, a return to the initial number of injected cells was
observed, and viability was 100%.” The tests were a resounding success, with the
discs fully regenerating. Never before has any procedure been so efficient in spinal
Stem Cell Reparation of Bones
As previously mentioned, stem cells can be used not only to repair bone damage,
but also treat degenerative bone diseases. “Generalized conditions, such as
osteoporosis, may be treatable by systemic administration of culture-expanded
autologous MSC’s (Mesenchymal Stem Cells) or through biopharmaceutical
regimens based on the discovery of critical regulatory molecules in the differentiation
process. With this in mind, we can begin to explore therapeutic options that have
never before been available” (5). This evidence further emphasizes what a
revolutionary advance stem cell treatments are in medical science.
By Jarryd Davis
Stem cells can replicate any specialised cell in the body, and repair and regenerate almost
any conceivable trauma or illnesses. As shown in the article, they can repair anything from
the heart, the brain, or even the intervertebral discs of the spine.
Never before in science have we seen a treatment with such amazing and universal
treatment options. Stem cell therapy has the potential to alleviate, and possibly cure many
known diseases, repair injuries, and even battle graft versus host diseases.
In summation, it is safe to say that although stem cell procurement from non-endogenous
sources can be considered a moral dilemma, stem cell therapy is, quite simply, one of the
most amazing treatments discovered in modern medicine, and has an almost infinite
amount of curative potential and possibilities.
(1) Ringdén, Olle; Uzunel, Mehmet; Rasmusson, Ida; Remberger, Mats; Sundberg, Berit; Lönnies,
Helena; Marschall, Hanns-Ulrich; Dlugosz, Aldona; Szakos, Attila; Hassan, Zuzana; Omazic,
Brigitta; Aschan, Johan; Barkholt, Lisbeth and Le Blanc, Katarina, 2006 ‘mesenchymal stem
cells for treatment of therapy-resistant graft-versus-host disease,’ Transplantation, vol. 81,
no. 10, pp. 1390-1397.
(2) Childs, Richard, M.D.; Chernoff, Alan, M.D.; Contentin, Nathalie, M.D.; Bahceci, Erkut, M.D.;
Schrump, David, M.D.; Leitman, Susan, M.D.; Read, Elizabeth, J., M.D.; Tisdale, john, M.D.;
Dunbar, Cynthia, M.D.; Lineham, W., Marston, M.D.; Young, Neal, S., M.D.; Clave, Emmanuel,
Ph.D.; Epperson, Diane, Ph.D.; Mayo, Virgina, R.M. and A., John, Barrett, 2000, ‘Regression of
metastatic renal-cell carcinoma after nonmyeloaoblative allogenic peripheral-blood stem-
cell transplantation,’ The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 750-758
(3) Haas, Sebastian; Weidner, Norbert and Winkler, Jurgen, 2005, ‘Adult stem cell therapy in
stroke,’ Current Opinion in Neurology, vol. 18, no.1, pp. 59-64.
(4) Crevensten, Gwen; Walsh, Andrew, J., L.; Ananthakrishan, Dheera; Page, Paul; Wahba,
George, M.; Lotz, Geoffery, C. and Sigurd, Berven, 2004, ‘Intervertebral disc therapy for
regeneration: Mesenchymal stem cell implantation in rat intervertebral discs,’ Annals of
Biomedical Engineering, vol. 32, no. 3, 430-434.
(5) Dr. Bruder, Scott, P.; Fink, David, J. and Caplan, Arnold, I, 2004, ‘Mesenchymal stem cells in
bone development, bone repair, and skeletal regeneration therapy,’ Journal of Cellular
Biochemistry, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 283-294.
By Jarryd Davis