Inflammation Is A Big Deal
When we think of inflammation, we automatically think of it as a bad thing, but it’s really not supposed to be. Inflammation is a defensive mechanism our body uses to restore homeostatic balance following damage or germ invasion. In a sense, it’s meant to protect us. However, inflammation is a double-edged sword. In a matter of trying to protect us, it can also bring about detrimental consequences.
Take a moment to think about the inflammatory conditions you know of. Maybe you thought of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and even those pesky allergies. Now, think about the symptoms that come along with those conditions. It’s usually swelling, pain, redness, and sometimes poor mobility. All of those symptoms occur to remove irritants from the body, but sometimes our body see’s parts of itself as foreign. This is when inflammation becomes a problem.
How We Currently Treat Inflammation
Researchers have looked to stem cells to help with inflammation because it could be more promising. If we could actually stop it at the source, that may be more beneficial than just treating the symptoms.
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5 Ways That Stem Cells Help With Inflammation
Mesenchymal stem cells have been thought of as a way to resolve many inflammatory conditions. As adult stem cells that can be isolated from human sources and with the capacity to differentiate into a variety of tissue types, they have the potential to provide healing. Here are a few ways that these repair cells make an impact on inflammation.
Production of Growth Factors
Mesenchymal stem cells are essentially self-renewing cells. They can be used to clinically replace or repair damaged tissue. Individuals suffering from inflammatory conditions can certainly benefit from this capability. For instance, osteoarthritis is a condition that signals inflammatory danger signals and causes oxidative stress. The articular cartilage of the joints becomes damaged, which leads to pain and immobility. Mesenchymal stem cells produce growth factors like those listed below:
- Transform growth factor (TGF)
- Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)
- Basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF)
- Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
These growth factors promote rapid production and the development of new blood vessels of various cell types, especially fibroblasts, epithelial or endothelial cells. This was actually tested when an intra-articular injection of mice adult stem cells reduced the wounds of cartilage degradation. New, healthy cells grew and were able to repair some of the damaged caused by the disease.
Rescuing of Other Cells
Mesenchymal stem cells also have the ability to rescue other cells from cell death induced by trauma, an oxidative environment, radiation or chemical injury. Proteins that aid in the rescue of other cells include:
- Insulin growth factor (IGF)1,
- Interleukin (IL)6 and,
All of the aforementioned proteins are essential for cell death reversal in fibroblasts. In addition, VEGF, HGF and TGFb have been shown to protect endothelial cells from cell death. Simply doing a mesenchymal stem cell transplantation reduces the scarring of connective tissue on a developing or established disease. It has a protective effect that allow it to rescue the cells around it. Inflammation is known to cause scarring, so it’s advantageous knowing that adult stem cells may be of benefit in the future.
Healing of Wounds
Adult mesenchymal stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells all have the ability to regenerate cells from the inside out. By delivering cells to the harsh environment where wounds and scarring exist, engrafting can take place. Naturally, paracrine activity, or the signaling of other cells, will take place so other cells are encouraged to heal the wound as well.
As previously mentioned, mesenchymal stem cells are self-repair cells, and this is largely due to them being anti-inflammatory in nature. Their behavior is activated during their migration to inflammatory tissues and in response to various proteins that signal white cells. Upon activation, they prevent the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and promote the survival of damaged cells. This benefit has been observed in mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in cases of acute lung injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and acute renal failure.
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Studies have also shown that mesenchymal stem cells have immunomodulatory properties. This means that they release a chemical agent that alters the immune response or the functioning of the immune system. This effect can be seen when they’re used to treat severe graft-versus-host-disease and even allergic disorders. However, there are some gaps in this process even though it holds great promise.
For instance, researchers have not yet identified the exact process of MSC-based immunomodulation. They are also unclear on why there are different results for MSC immunomodulation therapies in clinical trials. There is currently no scientific justification for the latter, which hinders their ability to expand on future developments.
Inflammation Treatment Options On The Horizon
Although we still have a ways to go, there seems to be potential in how stem cells help with inflammation. Their ability to rescue other cells, alter one’s immune response, and heal wounds shows great promise for the future of treating inflammatory conditions.