Stem cells are the building blocks of life. Characterized by self-renewal, these remarkable cells have led to huge leaps in the treatment of conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various neurological disorders. Not only can they treat life-threatening conditions, but stem cells are also giving researchers a greater understanding of the treatment of birth disorders.
The potential for stem cells to transform our understanding of medicine is evident. This is prompting the market to continue its trajectory of significant growth, with BCC Research predicting the market to reach $65.6 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 15.3% during the forecast period of 2022-2027.
The use of stem cells in regenerative medicine
Stem cell therapy slots into the wider field of regenerative medicine, meaning its role is best seen in that context. In a wide-ranging review of the field published in 2010, Dame Julia Polak stated, “The newly recognized multi-disciplinary field of regenerative medicine aims at the replacement, repair or restoration of normal function to disease organs/tissues by the delivery of safe, effective and consistent therapies composed of living cells, administered either alone or in combination with specially designed materials.”
In humans, regenerative medicine such as organ transplantation and cell therapy has been practiced for decades. Kidney transplantation was first performed in 1954, and bone marrow transplantation has been performed since 1968.
Dr. Polak points out that regenerative medicine is likely to transform the practice of medicine. With regenerative medicine, the repair of unhealthy tissue or the restoration of bodily functions can be achieved by a “once-and-for-all” treatment, carving a new path away from the current medical practice use of surgery and pharmaceuticals. With conventional medicine, patients usually require therapy for a fair stretch of time, if not forever. While cell therapy may carry significant upfront costs, the aim is to produce a permanent restoration of the organ or tissue’s lost function. This should be far more beneficial in the long term, financially, and in terms of health outcomes.
The opportunities for regenerative medicines are immense, especially when considering the aging population. Cells can be used as vehicles for gene therapy, and cultured cells can be used in vitro to study a specific disease process or for drug development. The discovery of iPS cells also offers the potential to produce disease models to support new drug discovery, as well as patient-specific cells for therapy.
The mechanism of action of stem cell therapy is still being determined, but the general consensus is that the most probable mechanism may be through the release of cytokines and other growth-promoting molecules. Harnessing the potential of these biologics enables one to foresee a future in which a once-and-for-all regenerative pill might become available. If regenerative medicine continues to progress and become well-established, it’s likely to be nothing short of revolutionary.
How can stem cells help treat cancer?
For more than 30 years, bone marrow and, more recently, umbilical cord blood stem cells, have been used to treat malignant cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. During chemotherapy, most growing cells are killed by the cytotoxic agents. However, these agents cannot discriminate between the leukemia or neoplastic cells and the hematopoietic stem cells within the bone marrow. This is the side effect of conventional chemotherapy that stem cell transplants attempt to reverse.
Brain cancer is notoriously difficult to treat because it spreads so rapidly. But research has demonstrated the enormous potential of stem cells in treating brain tumors. Researchers at Harvard Medical School transplanted human neural stem cells into the brain of rodents that received intracranial tumors. Within days, the cells migrated into the cancerous area and produced cytosine deaminase, an enzyme that converts a non-toxic pro-drug into a chemotherapeutic agent. As a result, the injected substance was able to reduce the tumor mass by 81%. The stem cells neither differentiated nor turned tumorigenic – a remarkable outcome.
Some researchers believe the cure for cancer can be found by stopping the production of cancer stem cells, which is why current cancer treatments are designed to kill cancer cells. Conventional chemotherapy treatments, however, cannot discriminate between cancerous cells and others – which is where stem cell therapies come in. Research on treating lymphoma using adult stem cells is underway and has had several human trials. Essentially, chemotherapy is used to completely destroy the patient’s own lymphocytes, and then stem cells are injected, eventually replacing the immune system of the patient with that of the healthy donor.
Discover more about the global markets for stem cells
Stem cell technology has already produced innovative therapeutic products. The potential scope of the stem cell market is now becoming clear, and reviewing the technology and its current practical applications is now becoming increasingly useful.
BCC Research’s recent report into the market for stem cells identifies emerging trends, offering sales forecasts and evaluating the competitive landscape through to 2027. Download your complimentary report overview now.
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