What are stem cells? And what role to they play in the possible treatment of scleroderma?

Stem cells are cells that have the ability to differentiate into (become) different kinds of cells. Because of this, researchers believe that stem cells can be used to repair damage in the body. Stem cell transplants are currently being tested in different clinical trials. In systemic sclerosis, stem cells appear to “reset” autoimmunity.

There are two main stem cells types: embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and adult stem cells.

ESCs develop days after in vitro fertilization and are also found in the interior of cells in a developing embryo. They have unlimited growth abilities but pose a risk for teratoma formation (tumors composed of tissue or organ components). Therapeutic use of embryonic stell cells is hotly debated because of ethical differences.

Types of stem cells

There are three different types of specialized adult stem cells: hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), and neural stem cells (NSCs).


HSCs are found within the bone marrow in pockets of space made by surrounding stromal cells. They have the potential to become the main precursors of blood and immune system cells, which then differentiate into mature cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are produced in large amounts during a person’s lifetime to repopulate the blood and immune system.

HSCs can be harvested from bone marrow, peripheral blood, umbilical cord blood, and ESCs themselves.

Some major advantages of peripheral blood stem cell transplant in therapeutic use include: no need for anesthesia and low risk of serious side effects, hospitalizations, or blood transfusions.


MSCs are self-replicating cells that can differentiate into (become) different types of cells, such as bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, fat, and neural cells.

Usually, they are collected from the bone marrow but can also come from fat tissue, umbilical cord blood, placenta, thymus, and dental pulp.

The use of MSCs offer advantages that include the safe and prompt collection from bone marrow, the ease of in vitro enrichment and growth, and the security of auto-transplant (autologous transplant – donor is also the recipient) without a need for immunosuppressive treatment.  They are less prone to genetic defects and malignant transformation in in vitro cultures.


NSCs are self-renewing progenitors that exist in the central nervous system. They have the capacity to self-renew and to grow discriminately into neurons, oligodendrocytes,and astrocytes.

NSC can be obtained by direct isolation from embryonic or adult brain tissue.

Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


  1. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=stem+cells+scleroderma&Search=Search