Cells are the smallest structural and functional unit of the body. They are the basis of the human body and form the tissues, muscles, bones, skin and organs of the body.
Cell therapy is a technique of introducing new cells into the body with the aim of treating certain ailments. It aims at regenerating the existing system by the introduction of new cells from animals or newborns.
Cell therapy was practiced in different forms by scientist since many years. It was as early as during the 1800s, when Dr. Charles Edward used animal extracts injections as a treatment against ageing. Later than that Dr. Paul Niehans, from Switzerland was known to perform organ transplantation and was called by a colleague, who had accidentally removed the parathyroid glands of a patient during a surgery.
Dr. Niehans planned to transplant the steer’s parathyroid gland into the patient, however, as the condition of the patient was deteriorating, he diced the steer’s parathyroid gland into fine pieces using a surgical knife, mixed it with saline solution and injected it into the patient. The patient’s convulsions stopped and showed improvement and lived for many years thereafter.
Cell therapy is mainly a form of organ transplantation, but instead of using the entire organ, some cells are used to produce the same effect. These cells are believed to bring new life and hence used for restoring the damaged cells and treating the patients.
Cells can be grown and divided in cultures and hence can be cultured in test tubes. They can be studied independently, cultured and at the appropriate stage of growth they can be injected into the body to treat the disease. Stem cells have proved to be the most effective in providing diseased organs with healthy cells.
Another way is the use of fresh fetal tissue, which are either used fresh or preserved in the laboratories and used as needed.
Cell therapy is often used in conditions where organ transplant may be difficult such as brain, kidney, heart, endocrine glands, etc.
As cell therapy involves injection of foreign cells into the body, special precautions need to be taken regarding the acceptance by the recipient. Hypersensitivity reactions, anaphylactic shock and other reactions must be kept in mind and the necessary action must be taken. This method of treatment is still being studied scientifically and the effects and side-effects are not fully known.