, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 51-56
Date: 18 Apr 2009

Stem Cell Through Present and Future

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Stem cell transplantation (SCT) has the potential to transform the lives of children with a wide variety of genetic diseases, ranging from inherent defects of hemopoietic cell production or function through to metabolic diseases mostly affecting solid organs. For these children life expectancy or quality of life would otherwise be very poor.1 It ranks as one of the most remarkable therapeutic advances of the past 40 years. Despite rapid technological improvements, however, there are still many short term risks and potential long term toxicities. Consequently, the rapid emergence of alternative therapies (including new drugs, enzyme and gene therapies), necessitate constant re-evaluation of the risk/benefit ratio for each disease and hence the appropriateness of SCT. This review describes the major aspects of the transplant process, indications for transplantation, outcome statistics, and areas where alternative therapies are becoming available. SCT remains a highly experimental therapy. Due to the relatively short history of the discipline no data exists on truly long term follow up. This is important as some organs benefit relatively poorly or problems may emerge which were never apparent as part of the untreated disease. The speed of technological change makes randomised trials on these diseases, which are individually quite rare, almost impossible to perform.