What do stem cells do and what are they used for?

Stem cells have the ability to multiply and produce new blood cells. They can also kick start the regeneration of bone marrow that is damaged or destroyed due to illness, injury or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, and treat diseases of the bone marrow, including immune deficiencies, types of anemia, and red and white blood cell disorders.

Stem cells are smart. They possess the power to seek out “sick” or damaged bone marrow and work to heal the cells. They are also considered the building blocks of all other types of cells in the body, having the ability to produce cells that will become brain, ocular, skin, muscle and other organ cells. Stem cells also have the capacity to correct inherited enzyme deficiencies in children.

Stem cell transplants are used on patients following chemotherapy or radiation treatments. During chemotherapy or radiation, all bone marrow cells – including both the healthy and diseased – are destroyed or damaged during the treatment. New, healthy stem cells, either those taken from the patient and preserved prior to treatment or those from a matching donor, are transplanted in order to replace the damaged or destroyed cells.

Stem cells are used to treat more than 80 diseases and illnesses, including certain types of cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, etc.), blood disorders (certain types of anemia), genetic and immunodeficiency diseases and more, and the list continues to grow with new research and medical breakthroughs.