Stem cell therapy continues to rally worldwide recognition as governments fund research and expand access. This once-controversial therapy is fast becoming one of medicine’s most exciting technologies. From FDA-approved therapies to in-house, physician-initiated autologous techniques, stem cell technology continues to evolve. 2022 promises to be an exciting year for the stem cell market.
The Stem Cell Market in 2022 and Beyond
Government and private funding is the main engine behind stem cell therapy’s persistent growth. Robust research has led to advances in all types of regenerative therapies, with stem cell technology at the forefront.
If anybody doubts the future of stem cells, they should look at their soaring market potential. Here are the top nine driving forces behind the stem cell market’s accelerating momentum.
1. Oncology Applications
While treating cancer with stem cells is not new, the field of cancer treatment is where stem cell therapy excels. With an aging population comes a global rise in cancer rates. While stem cell therapy can help treat certain forms of cancer, it has also proved helpful in combating the damaging effects of chemotherapy.
For over 50 years, hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT) derived from bone marrow or cord blood have been used to treat many cancer forms. Hematopoietic stem cells are widely used in cancer treatments. The key to their popularity? Their ability to form a variety of cell types that constitute our blood and immune system.
Bone marrow transplants have been used to treat cancers such as:
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphoma (certain types)
Also, scientists and clinicians are learning how to better genetically match and administer these cells, as well as care for patients after stem cell transplantation. The result is the prevention of dangerous conditions like graft versus host disease (GvHD).
Dermatology is another area that lends itself to stem cell adoption. Autologous epidermal stem cells can treat various types of skin conditions, including severe burns. Renovacare’s Skin Gun™ is an example of a technology that uses the patient’s own skin as a stem cell source. A doctor can take a sample of a patient’s skin and place it in the Skin Gun™. The device “blends” the sample into a solution, which then can be sprayed as a thin mist on the affected area. The result is that the burn area readily accepts the genetically-similar sample and can go about regenerating skin locally.
Other dermatology conditions that can make use of stem cell therapy include wound healing, treatment of severe blistering, and skin manifestations of autoimmune diseases.
3. Regenerative Medicine
Stem cell therapy is, by definition, regenerative. But what about its applications for overall human longevity? If you want to get a glimpse into what the future holds for stem cell therapy, consider that stem cells may hold the key to staving off chronic disease as well as replacing old organs.
The net result? A drastically-slowed rate of aging and an average life expectancy well into one’s 80s (and beyond). It is said that the first human who will live to two hundred has already been born. Stem cell technology will undoubtedly play a large role in the long life of future generations.
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What Is the Future of the Stem Cell Market in 2022?
Stem cells are attracting attention as a key element in future medicine, satisfying the desire to live a healthier life with the possibility that they can regenerate tissue damaged or degenerated by disease or aging. Stem cells are defined as undifferentiated cells that have the ability to replicate and differentiate themselves into various tissues cells. Stem cells, commonly encountered in clinical or preclinical stages, are largely classified into embryonic, adult, and induced pluripotent stem cells. Recently, stem cell transplantation has been frequently applied to the treatment of pain as an alternative or promising approach for the treatment of severe osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, and intractable musculoskeletal pain which do not respond to conventional medicine. The main idea of applying stem cells to neuropathic pain is based on the ability of stem cells to release neurotrophic factors, along with providing a cellular source for replacing the injured neural cells, making them ideal candidates for modulating and possibly reversing intractable neuropathic pain. Even though various differentiation capacities of stem cells are reported, there is not enough knowledge and technique to control the differentiation into desired tissues in vivo. Even though the use of stem cells is still in the very early stages of clinical use and raises complicated ethical problems, the future of stem cells therapies is very bright with the help of accumulating evidence and technology.
One of the major achievements in the development in modern medicine is the discovery of stem cells. Stem cells are attracting attention as a key element in future medicine, satisfying the desire to live a healthier life with the possibility that they can regenerate tissue damaged or degenerated by disease or aging. Development of cell therapy and regenerative medicine using stem cells is expanding the medical industry and businesses as well as increasing the understanding of the nature of the cell itself. Stem cell medicine brings a new paradigm to modern medicine which has relied heavily on medicine or surgery.
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By Mark D. Coggins, PharmD, BCGP, FASCP
Today’s Geriatric Medicine
Vol. 13 No. 2 P. 14
Neuropathic pain (NP) is a common and difficult-to-treat symptom of nerve damage. Patients suffering from this chronic pain condition are at risk of incurring increased health care expenditures and experiencing significant reductions in quality of life. Patients with NP often report job loss or significant changes to their careers, limited social interactions, decreased quality time with family, and feelings of hopelessness and depression due to their disease.1 Furthermore, current treatment approaches for NP, which focus on symptom management, are frequently inadequate.
Advancements in stem cell research are promising and may lead to new treatment modalities for NP.
NP symptoms are frequently described as burning, electric, tingling, and shooting. Hallmarks of NP include allodynia (pain resulting from a stimulus that normally does not elicit a painful response) and hyperalgesia (greater pain than normally would be expected from a painful stimulus).
Symptoms of neuropathy range from mild to disabling and may include a loss of reflexes, problems feeling pain, changes in temperature, numbness and tingling, and pain that is often worse at night.2 Symptoms are often sudden and unpredictable and follow different patterns that vary over a period of days, weeks, or years.1,2
Approximately 30% of cases of neuropathy are the result of diabetes, and about 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of damage to sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves that cause such symptoms as numb, tingling, or burning feet; one-sided bands of pain; and numbness and weakness on the trunk or pelvis.2
More than 100 types of neuropathy have been identified, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms and prognosis.2 Causes of NP include chronic medical conditions (eg, diabetes), physical injury (eg, fractures, spinal cord injury), alcoholism, amputation (resulting in phantom pain), use of some chemotherapeutic agents (eg, Cisplatin, Vincristine), radiation therapy, trigeminal neuralgia, infections (eg, shingles, HIV), central nervous system disorders (eg, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis), kidney and liver disorders, nutritional deficiencies and imbalances (eg, B12 deficiency, excess B6), autoimmune disorders (eg, Guillain-Barré syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus), and some cancers/tumors. In some cases, NP is idiopathic.1-3
Existing treatments and approaches to NP focus on palliative management of symptoms. There are no drugs available that can restore nerve function. The management of NP is challenging, as this type of pain is frequently refractory to existing treatments.4 It’s been reported that in clinical trials, no more than one-half of patients with NP experience clinically meaningful pain relief.3 Similarly, several studies of individuals with NP living in the community have shown patients on average experience pain of moderate severity despite taking prescribed medications for their pain.4
Medications commonly used include analgesics such as opioids (eg morphine, methadone, tramadol) and over-the-counter pain medications (eg, NSAIDs), antidepressants (eg, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, venlafaxine, duloxetine), anticonvulsants (eg, gabapentin, pregabalin), muscle relaxers (eg, cyclobenzaprine), and topical agents such as lidocaine creams or patches. In addition to medications, nondrug therapies and lifestyle modifications such as exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture, and limiting physical activity may also be utilized to manage symptoms.
Stem cell transplantation has the potential to repair, restore, replace, and regenerate cells, and may be able to treat a number of different medical conditions and diseases. Research increasingly is evaluating the use of stem cells for the treatment of NP. Unlike existing treatments that focus only on symptom management, stem cell transplantation may be able to replace damaged nerve cells, possibly offering a cure.
Stem cells, sometimes referred to as “master cells,” are the foundation for every organ and tissue in the human body. These include embryonic stem cells and tissue-specific adult stem cells. Due to the ethical issues associated with the use of embryonic stem cells, most of the research being done involves the use of adult stem cells. Regardless of the type used, stem cells have the unique ability to self-renew (make copies of themselves) and differentiate (develop into more specialized cells).
Stem cells can be transplanted in a number of different ways, including local delivery, intrathecal or intracerebroventricular administration, IV injection, intranasal delivery, and endogenous mobilization by drugs for chronic intractable pain treatment.
In early research, it had been thought that stem cells would need to be administered intrathecally to reduce pain as IV administration appeared to result in the stem cells becoming trapped in the lungs, preventing their migration to the site of injury. However, more recent evidence suggests this lung trapping effect may be transient.
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Experts are looking at the potential of stem cell therapy in developing new therapies aimed at conditions that do not respond well to treatment, such as non-small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is one of the two main types of lung cancer. Evidence suggests that roughly 80–85%Trusted Source of lung cancer is NSCLC. It occurs when cells that line the lungs grow abnormally.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancersTrusted Source worldwide and is the leading cause of cancer-related death, representing about 25%Trusted Source of cancer deaths. Most lung cancer-related deaths are due to treatment failure and the spreading of cancer cells to distant sites (metastasis).
Current research proposes that NSCLC’s resistance to treatment and fast progression is due to the presence of specific types of cancer cells, called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which have the ability of normal stem cells, allowing them to divide and proliferate.
Stem cell therapy is a field of regenerative medicine that utilizes people’s own cells to promote healing, repair damaged tissue, and help boost the immune response to fight off cancer cells and infections.
In this article, we look at whether stem cell therapy is a viable treatment for NSCLC along with other new treatment breakthroughs.
Currently, there are limited studies that prove the effectiveness of using stem cell therapy in treating NSCLC, and the majority of these are still under clinical trials. Growing evidence suggests that stem cell therapy may also have some potential to treat other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
While a few clinical studies suggest some promise of stem cell therapy in treating NSCLC, more research is necessary due to potential concerns regarding the effectiveness and safety of the therapy. At present, many experts do not recommend this therapy due to the potential risks, lack of proven benefits, and costs.
However, researchers continue to investigate the potential benefits. For example, a 2021 study indicates that mesenchymal stem cells may be able to inhibit NSCLC cells in a lab setting. An animal study also found that giving human-induced neural stem cells intravenously to mice was safe and reduced NSCLC tumor cells by seeking and killing them.
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It’s been about half a century since the first transplant of bone marrow from a donor to a recipient was completed. Since then, bone marrow transplantation has become an integral part of care for many patients with persistent leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood cancers, as well as noncancerous blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. Specifically, we are transplanting stem cells — nascent cells with the capacity to mature into functioning blood and immune system cells — from a matched or partially matched donor into the body of a patient whose own blood-forming system has been destroyed with toxic medication to make way for a healthy new system to grow and develop.
In recent years, however, our field has expanded to include other treatments that work in similar ways as bone marrow transplantation. They are collectively known as “cellular therapies” because they do one of three things: provide healthy new cells to replace diseased cells, release an influx of specially modified immune cells to teach the body’s immune cells how to fight disease, or provide cells that connect immune cells with cancer cells they are designed to kill. Study after study has demonstrated how these approaches are extending patients’ lives. This progression of therapies is reflected in bone marrow transplant services around the country, many of which — including our own at Hackensack University Medical Center — now include the words “cellular therapy” in their names.
It is an exciting time for those of us in the stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy field. For years, we have concentrated on improving the outcomes of stem cell transplants. We have significantly improved techniques to reduce the risk of graft-versus-host disease, a potentially serious complication of transplantation that occurs when immune cells from the donor identify the tissues of the recipient as foreign and attack them, causing a host of inflammatory symptoms. We have learned which medications to give to prevent post-transplant infections such as cytomegalovirus, a common virus that can be damaging in people with compromised immune systems. We are using stem cells from umbilical cord blood to perform more transplants in adult patients. And we have matched more patients with donors by learning how to perform “haploidentical” transplants, where the patient receives a transplant from someone who is partially matched immunologically. These advances are making stem cell transplantation a safer and more effective treatment option for more patients who need them.
But where we are really seeing a revolution in care is the field of cellular therapy — particularly CAR T-cell immunotherapy. Cancer cells have found ways to escape being detected and destroyed by immune cells. Immunotherapies work by helping the immune system find and kill cancer cells.
With CAR T-cell therapy, immune cells called T cells are removed from the patient, genetically modified in a lab to recognize and attach to certain targets on cancer cells, grown to larger quantities (hundreds of millions), and returned to the patient. There, the modified T cells can find, bind to and kill cancer cells. The treatment is given intravenously. Long after the patient goes home, however, his or her newly educated immune cells continue to detect and destroy cancer cells, which is why this treatment is often referred to as a “living therapy.”
CAR T-cell therapies are typically administered in bone marrow transplantation units, and for good reason: Patients receive chemotherapy beforehand, which reduces the immune response. The treatment itself can cause immunologic side effects which, albeit temporary, can be severe — including high fever, body aches and chills. The administration of CAR T-cell therapies requires round-the-clock care from a specially trained and credentialed team. As bone marrow transplant specialists, our experience and knowledge of immunology enable us to recognize and manage the inflammatory complications that may result.
Current CAR T-cell therapies are FDA-approved for the treatment of recurrent or persistent diffuse B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma (which is a very aggressive and challenging cancer) in adults, as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and young adults up to age 25. We are intrigued by other innovative cellular therapies under study in clinical trials, such as natural killer (NK) cells and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). These treatments are made from a patient’s own tumor tissue, so it has already been exposed to the patient’s own immune system. Immune cells within a tumor, which on their own were unable to kill the cancer, are isolated from tumor tissue removed during surgery, modified and multiplied in a lab, and returned to the patient with other medications to boost the immune response against cancer.
Not only is the technology getting better, but the types of tumors we are treating is broadening. New CAR T-cell therapies, NK and TIL treatments, and another approach that combines CAR T-cell and NK therapies may broaden the application of these “living therapies” to patients with solid tumors, including melanoma, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. We’re also looking at combining cellular immunotherapies with stem cell transplantation to augment the anticancer immune response even further.
Cellular therapies are truly game-changers in cancer care. It has been inspirational for us as bone marrow transplant professionals to be part of their development. What we’re witnessing now is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re only getting better at identifying the best immune cells and engineering them in the best fashion to harness the immune system in the most effective way. Discovery is exponential and the field of immunotherapy is growing at warp speed. It’s not impossible to think that we’re going to be curing cancer.
Michele Donato, MD, is chief of the Adult Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program at John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center.
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