Patients who have suffered from some form of cancers such as Leukemia, for example, are often given a bone marrow transplant. This is to renew the bone marrow cells that were lost during the chemotherapy and irradiation procedures.
After such treatments, the patient is usually low on red blood cells which could lead to anemia and other complications. That is why there is a need for a bone marrow stem cell transplant just to kickstart the red and white blood cell production.
So, how do you know that the transplanted stem cells did their job? Well, the short answer is that you will feel significantly better. But the real question to ask is how long do stem cells live in your body, especially after transplantation?
To answer that, researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has developed a computer-generated mathematical model that helps them predict how long a stem cell lives inside the body.
The reason why they’ve developed such is that they’ve found out that stem cells really die. It was believed for a long time that stem cells are immortal due to its amazing ability to proliferate and divide.
However, that ability is induced and it does it only for so long and they eventually die.
What they did was they drew some blood from the would-be recipients, transplanted them with the stem cells, then they drew some blood again, got some data and measurements, and they’ve input the parameters into the mathematical model.
The program then gives them a somewhat accurate prediction as to how long the stem cells will live. Apparently, stem cells can typically last for only 5 months. However, there are some instances where the stem cells were able to live for a maximum of 3 years.
This mathematical model was made by Dr. Hans Sieburg and his colleagues. They’ve arrived at this conclusion: the stem cells are somehow programmed to self-renew only to the extent that they’re needed to by the body.
It somehow regulates its ability to proliferate because too much stem cells would result in cancer and too little will have a negligible effect on the body.
The finding is just so fascinating because we’ve believed for so long that stem cells just do not die because of this ability to cell divide.
Where to Go from Here?
Sieberg and his colleagues are continuing to refine the mathematical model so that it will continue to make somewhat accurate predictions. The reason that they want to do this is that it has so many implications that can help regenerative medicine in the future.
No wonder why some bone transplants fail because some stem cells just do not live long enough to make a significant change. Armed with this knowledge, doctors in the future will know exactly what to do to ensure that the stem cell transplant is highly successful.
This mathematical model, said Sieburg, will be available for all people who are going to study stem cells more closely.