Demystifying Stem Cells and Exosomes, to Highlight How They Help the Body Heal
Nothing triggers a lively debate like the phrase “stem cells.” There’s a lot of confusion about these cells—where they come from, what they do and what they’re capable of. Some people think they’re the fountain of youth with untapped potential for healing and limitless tissue regeneration. Others think they’re the product of abortion, harvested from fetal tissue in a gruesome process.
As is the case with most polarizing topics, both of these extremes are wrong. In the modern age of science and medicine, it’s time for people to get the right perspective. There’s what you need to know about stem cells, exosomes and how they encourage healing in your body.
A quick overview of stem cells
Stem cells come from two main sources: Adult undeveloped tissue and embryonic tissue. Adult stem cells are commonly found in fatty tissue, bone marrow, the liver and other places where the body is constantly regenerating cells. Embryonic stem cells are the ones that come from fetal tissue, since the body itself is still developing.
No matter where they come from, stem cells are extremely important because of their adaptability. As the name implies, stem cells are “root cells,” meaning they have no true designation yet and can evolve into any other cell they’re surrounded by. This means stem cells from the liver can be harvested to help regrow muscle tissue in the heart, for example.
Their adaptability make stem cells an essential tool in healing. Much like O-negative blood is a universal donor blood that anyone can accept, stem cells are a universal baseline for the development of all other cells.
What role do exosomes play?
You may have heard exosomes mentioned in the same breath as stem cells. This is because exosomes are the molecules released during cell evolution, and they play an important part in cell communication—specifically, helping stem cells take on the right properties. Exosomes carry genetic information, helping stem cells become the cells our bodies need to recover.
Scientists are still learning tremendous amounts about exosomes and the role they play in stem cell development. As we unlock the mysteries of how exosomes influence cell permutation, there’s evidence we might be able to leverage stem cells as even more powerful healing tools than they are now.
The potential of exosomes and stem cells
As mentioned, stem cells are already powerful healing tools. Being able to inject them into areas of the body with damaged tissue helps support natural healing—using liver stem cells to stimulate heart tissue regeneration. Being able to harness exosomes takes it a step further.
Imagine using stem cells to fight cancerous cells, instead of chemotherapy. Or, think about the potential of stem cells in healing chronic disease, like cystic fibrosis. Exosome-optimized stem cells may even be able to heal previously permanent damage, like nerve damage, opening a gateway of possibilities for regenerative medicine! We know so little at this point that the future is full of exceptional potential—even helping paralyzed people walk again or fighting degenerative conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
The reason all of these things are potentially possible is because exosomes have the instructions for cell function. If scientists can mimic the exosome markers of healthy, normal cells and enable the right permutation of stem cells, it may be possible to reprogram the body’s ability to heal itself in new and amazing ways. For example, your body may be biologically programmed to produce defective skin cells, causing hyperpigmentation. However, exosomes with markers for normal skin pigmentation could be used to reprogram your skin cells to produce normal cells, resolving your condition.
As we learn more about exosomes and their potential to optimize stem cells, all types of healing possibilities come into play—from treating athletic trauma injuries, to healing degenerative immune conditions.
Getting past the stigma of stem cells
As mentioned, stem cells are still cause for raucous debate. People aren’t always able to understand that adult stem cells are much different from fetal stem cells, and even these cells are harvested under strictly-controlled conditions. Regardless of where they come from, however, stem cells represent the next phase in modern medicine. Already we’ve seen amazing regenerative results by reprogramming these cells to heal specific injuries.
We’re sure to learn even more about the healing power of stem cells as researchers delve deeper into exosome function. The forefront of regenerative medicine is an exciting prospect that’s within our grasp, and it won’t be long until we’re able to help our bodies heal themselves in amazing new ways.
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