How Stem Cell Transplants Work

The first step in treating a patient with stem cells is to condition them to receive the treatment. Some treatments rely on undamaged cells, so the patient’s marrow will be harvested before a procedure can begin. Once the stem cells are prepared, the patient is given chemo and radiation therapy that is meant to destroy or damage the old bone marrow.

The process replaces those damaged cells with new ones. Similar to a transfusion of blood, fresh stem cells are meant to replace the damaged ones without an invasive surgery. Without that boost, your bone marrow levels will continue to decrease for several months, perhaps skipping recovery altogether. The boost of marrow will stabilize your blood count for roughly six weeks in best case scenarios.

The chemotherapy is used to balance the growth of cancer cells with those of the stem cells meant to replace them. The chemo hinders the growth of your cancer cells, which typically grow faster than other parts of your body. This also means that chemo hinders the growth of new blood cells, so stem cell therapy must be administered and monitored carefully with chemo.

Radiation can target specific cancer cells, but it also hampers the patient’s immune system in the process.

The patient’s blood is also tested to get an idea of threshold for blood cells. Your counts are checked daily in the hospital, but separate tests may be ordered throughout the treatment. It’s crucial for patients to stay mindful of their count. The blood cells in the body can directly affect one’s physical activity and rate of recovery.

Bio: Bio-medical researcher Sasha Bakhru has a passion for gaining new understanding of stem cell encapsulation. As the co-founder of NeuroBank, Sasha Bakhru works to assist patients in long term stem cell storage.