You may or may not know that we produce our OWN stem cells…but first things first, let’s clear up what are stem cells before we go any further.
Stem cells are sometimes, appropriately, referred to as ‘master’ or ‘blank’ cells. They are the basic cells from which all other, more specialised cells develop and there are two basic types of stem cells – embryonic stem cells (that are found in embryos) and adult stem cells (that are found in adults).
Currently controversy surrounds the use of embryonic stem cells but no such controversy exists where adult stem cells are concerned, because these cells occur naturally in our bodies.
In fact production of stem cells is found to take place throughout the body, although this production occurs most importantly in the bone marrow.
In intimate partnership with the immune system and the cleansing system, adult stem cell production comprises an integral part of the body’s rejuvenation and renewal processes.
The body is in a constant state of renewal, with cells continually dying and being replaced by new cells of the same kind. But each new cell is formed from the basic template of a stem cell.
Stem cells are able to develop into many different types of cell and when one divides, each new cell thus formed has the potential to either remain a stem cell or transform into another type of cell with a specialized function, such as a brain cell, skin cell or a red blood cell.
When released, new stem cells assist problem areas of the body by dividing to produce specialized cells that are required to replace specialized cells that have died. Stem cells can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the body is alive.
One aspect of this ongoing renewal process is that stem cells help with repair to damaged tissue. When a tissue becomes damaged it sends out chemical signals that attract the stem cells to the injured area. Then, by dividing and producing new cells of the type required, the stem cells then provide a repair function.
This rejuvenation-repair role becomes increasingly important to us as we grow older. This of course begs the question as to how and why we age when out bodies continue as they do to produce rejuvenative stem cells?
It looks increasingly as if scientific research has yielded some answers because aging – as science has begun to prove in the last few years – is solidly linked to what is known as “Oxidative Stress” (OS). OS is the process by which the cells and organs – which are essentially colonies of cells – become damaged from long-term exposure to free radicals.
This Oxidative Stress, a process of degeneration that is to the cells much as rusting is to iron (and explained in my free book on Wild Blue-Green Algae available from Freedom Plaza), is linked to just about any degenerative disease you can think of: for example, autoimmune disorders, all types of cancers, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, and most skin disorders and very many more. Most of the physical signs of aging you see on people or indeed yourself when you look in the mirror, wrinkles, sagging skin, and so on are directly due to the chronic cellular damage cause the OS process.
Scientific research has now uncovered the fact that OS can also inhibit the production of adult stem cells. It also inhibits the ability to function of the stem cells that are produced to function as healthy new cells in our bodies.
This effect of oxidative stress upon stem cells may in fact be one of the missing links in our understanding of aging and thus our ability to alleviate the ravages of time upon the body.