Plant Stem Cells Cancer Therapy

18 December 2019 Written by
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Plant stem cells cancer therapy is a new era in the discovery of stem cells and their clinical application. Since the original discovery of stem cells, promising results have emerged in stem cells treatment of several important diseases, including cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The plentiful research on plant stem cells cancer therapy during the past decades has provided significant information on the developmental, morphological, and physiological processes that govern tissue and organ formation,. Over the past 2 decades, the use of Stem cells in research has developed rapidly due to their unique capabilities to self-renew as well as to differentiate into numerous specialized cells in the body.

There are at least 250,000 species of plants out of which more than one thousand plants have been found to possess significant anticancer properties. Natural products represent a rich source for the discovery and development of cancer preventive and anticancer drugs. Nearly, 80% of all drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration during the last three decades for cancer therapy are either natural products per se or are based thereon, or mimicked natural products in one form or another.

How Plant Stem Cells Work When Used As Stem Cell Therapy in Humans

Yes, it is true that stem cells of plants can be used in stem cell therapy for human beings. You might ask:How could that be when plants are so different from humans? That’s a good question. But consider this:

  1. plants have stem cells
  2. stem cells of plants can induce stem cells of humans to work
  3. it is highly probable that plant stem cells pose less risk than human stem cells in treating and curing disease
  4. and plants are a source of supplements that induce healing and wellness in humans.

Stem cells: What they are and what they do

Stem cells and derived products offer great promise for new medical treatments. You've heard about stem cells in the news, and perhaps you've wondered if they might help you or a loved one with a serious disease. You may wonder what stem cells are, how they're being used to treat disease and injury, and why they're the subject of such vigorous debate. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about stem cells.

What are stem cells?1

Stem cells are the body's raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells.

These daughter cells either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells or bone cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.

Why is there such an interest in stem cells?

Researchers and doctors hope stem cell studies can help to:

  • Increase understanding of how diseases occur. By watching stem cells mature into cells in bones, heart muscle, nerves, and other organs and tissue, researchers and doctors may better understand how diseases and conditions develop.
  • Generate healthy cells to replace diseased cells (regenerative medicine). Stem cells can be guided into becoming specific cells that can be used to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissues in people.

People who might benefit from stem cell therapies include those with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer and osteoarthritis.

Stem cells may have the potential to be grown to become new tissue for use in transplant and regenerative medicine. Researchers continue to advance the knowledge on stem cells and their applications in transplant and regenerative medicine.

How Stem Cell Transplants Work against Cancer

Stem cell transplants do not usually work against cancer directly. Instead, they help you recover your ability to produce stem cells after treatment with very high doses of radiation therapy like chemotherapy.

However, in multiple myeloma and some types of leukemia, the stem cell transplant may work against cancer directly. This happens because of an effect called graft-versus-tumor that can occur after allogeneic transplants. Graft-versus-tumor occurs when white blood cells from your donor (the graft) attack any cancer cells that remain in your body (the tumor) after high-dose treatments. This effect improves the success of the treatments.

Types of Stem Cell Transplants for Cancer Treatment

In a typical stem cell transplant for cancer very high doses of chemo are used, sometimes along with radiation therapy, to try to kill all the cancer cells. This treatment also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, much like a blood transfusion. Over time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells. This process is called engraftment.

Autologous stem cell transplants

In this type of transplant, your own stem cells are removed, or  harvested, from your blood before you get treatment that destroys them. Your stem cells are removed from either your bone marrow or your blood, and then frozen. After you get high doses of chemo and/or radiation, the stem cells are thawed and given back to you. One advantage of autologous stem cell transplant is that you’re getting your own cells back.

You don’t have to worry about the new stem cells (called the engrafted cells or the “graft”) attacking your body (graft-versus-host disease) or about getting a new infection from another person. But there can still be graft failure, which means the cells don’t go into the bone marrow and make blood cells like they should. Also, autologous transplants can’t produce the “graft-versus-cancer” effect.

This kind of transplant is mainly used to treat certain leukemias,  lymphomas, and multiple myeloma. It’s sometimes used for other cancers, like testicular cancer and neuroblastoma, and certain cancers in children. Doctors are looking at how autologous transplants might be used to treat other diseases, too, like systemic sclerosis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Crohn's disease, and systemic lupus erythematosis (lupus).

Disadvantage of autologous transplants

A possible disadvantage of an autologous transplant is that cancer cells may be collected along with the stem cells and then later put back into your body. Another disadvantage is that your immune system is the same as it was before your transplant. This means the cancer cells were able to escape attack from your immune system before, and may be able to do so again.

To help prevent this, some centers treat the stem cells before they’re given back to the patient to try to kill any remaining cancer cells. This may be called purging. It isn’t clear that this really helps, as it has not yet been proven to reduce the risk of cancer coming back. A possible downside of purging is that some normal stem cells can be lost during this process.

This may cause your body to take longer to start making normal blood cells, and you might have very low and unsafe levels of white blood cells or platelets for a longer time. This could increase the risk of  infections or bleeding problems.

Allogeneic stem cell transplants

Allogeneic stem cell transplants use cells from a donor. In the most common type of allogeneic transplant, the stem cells come from a donor whose tissue type closely matches the patient’s. The best donor is a close family member, usually a brother or sister. If you don’t have a good match in your family, a donor might be found in the general public through a national registry. This is sometimes called a MUD (matched unrelated donor) transplant. Transplants with a MUD are usually riskier than those with a relative who is a good match.

Blood taken from the placenta and umbilical cord of newborns is a newer source of stem cells for allogeneic transplant. Called cord blood, this small volume of blood has a high number of stem cells that tend to multiply quickly. But there are often not enough stem cells in a unit of cord blood for large adults, so most cord blood transplants done so far have been in children and smaller adults.

Researchers are now looking for ways to use cord blood for transplants in larger adults. One approach is to find ways to increase the numbers of these cells in the lab before the transplant. Another approach is the use of the cord blood from 2 infants for one adult transplant, called a dual-cord-blood transplant.

Pros of allogeneic stem cell transplant: The donor stem cells make their own immune cells, which could help kill any cancer cells that remain after high-dose treatment. This is called the graft-versus-cancer effect. Other advantages are that the donor can often be asked to donate more stem cells or even white blood cells if needed, and stem cells from healthy donors are free of cancer cells.

Cons to allogeneic stem cell transplants: The transplant, or graft, might not take – that is, the transplanted donor stem cells could die or be destroyed by the patient’s body before settling in the bone marrow.

Another risk is that the immune cells from the donor may not just attack the cancer cells – they could attack healthy cells in the patient’s body. This is called graft-versus-host disease. There is also a very small risk of certain infections from the donor cells, even though donors are tested before they donate. A higher risk comes from infections you had previously, and which your immune system has had under control.

These infections may surface after allogeneic transplant because your immune system is held in check (suppressed) by medicines called immunosuppressive drugs. Such infections can cause serious problems and even death. Allogeneic transplant is most often used to treat certain types of leukemia, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndrome, and other bone marrow disorders such as aplastic anemia.

Stem Cell Transplants Can Cause Side Effects

The high doses of cancer treatment that you have before a stem cell transplant can cause problems such as bleeding and an increased risk of infection.

If you have an allogeneic transplant, you might develop a serious problem called graft-versus-host disease. Graft-versus-host disease can occur when white blood cells from your donor (the graft) recognize cells in your body (the host) as foreign and attack them. This problem can cause damage to your skin, liver, intestines, and many other organs.

It can occur a few weeks after the transplant or much later. Graft-versus-host disease can be treated with steroids or other drugs that suppress your immune system. The closer your donor’s blood-forming stem cells match yours, the less likely you are to have graft-versus-host disease. Your doctor may also try to prevent it by giving you drugs to suppress your immune system.

Where do stem cells come from?

Depending on the type of transplant that’s done, there are 3 possible sources of stem cells to use for transplants:

  • Bone marrow (from you or someone else)
  • The bloodstream (peripheral blood – from you or someone else)
  • Umbilical cord blood from newborns

Bone marrow

Bone marrow is the spongy liquid tissue in the center of some bones. It has a rich supply of stem cells, and its main job is to make blood cells that circulate in your body. The bones of the pelvis (hip) have the most marrow and contain large numbers of stem cells. For this reason, cells from the pelvic bone are used most often for a bone marrow transplant. Enough marrow must be removed to collect a large number of healthy stem cells.

Peripheral blood

For a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, the stem cells are taken from blood. A special thin flexible tube (called a catheter) is put into a large vein in the donor and attached to tubing that carries the blood to a special machine. The machine separates the stem cells from the rest of the blood, which is returned to the donor during the same procedure. This takes several hours, and may need to be repeated for a few days to get enough stem cells. The stem cells are filtered, stored in bags, and frozen until the patient is ready for them.

Umbilical cord blood

A large number of stem cells are normally found in the blood of newborn babies. After birth, the blood that’s left behind in the placenta and umbilical cord (known as cord blood) can be taken and stored for later use in a stem cell transplant. The cord blood is frozen until needed. A cord blood transplant uses blood that normally is thrown out after a baby is born.

What types of cancers currently benefit from stem cell therapy? 

Stem cell cancer treatment is used to help treat patients with certain types of cancers, namely leukemia and lymphoma, although it can also be used to help treat neuroblastoma as well as multiple myeloma.

 

One of the reasons that stem cell therapy can be used to help patients with cancer is not because it is used to fight the cancer directly (although it can be), but because the stem cell cancer treatment allows the patient to receive incredibly high doses of chemo and/or radiotherapy. And it’s these therapies that actually work to get rid of the cancer. 

Conclusion and future prospectus

Presently, cancer therapy has entered in to an exciting new era, with traditional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery on one side while the stem cells on the other hand.

Apart from their well-known role in immuno-reconstitution, stem cells have attracted much attention especially with the new gene technologies such as gene incorporation allowing more focused delivery of the anti-cancer agents.

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