What Are the Most Common Autoimmune Diseases?

What Are the Most Common Autoimmune Diseases?

By some estimates, there are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, while the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) includes conditions related to autoimmune disease on their list, which totals more than 100 disorders. Some of these diseases are extremely rare, while others are more common. They all share the same characteristic: the immune system malfunctions, mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. Here’s a look into the most common autoimmune diseases. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation states that there are 1.5 million people in the U.S. with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with women being three times more likely to get it than men. In this condition, the immune system attacks the synovium or lining between joints. Inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart, and circulatory system.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children under the age of 16. Patients experience joint pain which may persist for only a few months, while others may have it for years. Swelling and stiffness are also common, and larger joints, such as the knees, are often affected.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)

Lupus is notoriously challenging to diagnose because it bears similarities to many other conditions. The inflammation caused by the disease can affect various parts of the body, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, joints, and skin, among others. Fatigue, skin rash, and fever may also occur. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus, 9 out of 10 of whom are women.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Sometimes, psoriasis may be accompanied by arthritis. Either the joint issues or the skin problems related to psoriasis may appear first. Psoriasis is characterized by red patches covered by silvery scales, which are caused by the body’s immune system creating an overproduction of skin cells. The inflammatory response can then affect the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis affects roughly 30% of people with psoriasis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is the collective term for disorders caused by chronic inflammation of the intestines. Ulcerative colitis is one common form, in which inflammation and ulcers form in the large intestine and rectum. Crohn’s disease is another common form, in which the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed.

If you suffer from any one of the most common autoimmune diseases, contact our care coordinator today to learn more about the options you have.

Five Early Signs of Autoimmune Disease

Five Early Signs of Autoimmune Disease

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases. While some have unique, specific symptoms, for many of these conditions, there are striking similarities. In particular, a few signs of autoimmune disease can manifest early on, potentially even years before a formal diagnosis. Here are a few early signs of autoimmune disease.

Weight Changes
If your weight is fluctuating even without changes to your diet or exercise patterns, take note. This symptom could point to autoimmune issues such as hypothyroidism, in which the production of key hormones causes weight gain. 

Fatigue
Another common indicator of autoimmune disease is fatigue. It’s the most common symptom reported by people with autoimmune disorders, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Experts believe the root cause of this symptom is widespread inflammation, which can affect oxygen and nutrient supply, metabolism, and mood.

Skin Changes
Rashes can be seen in autoimmune diseases such as lupus. In this condition, patients often notice a butterfly-shaped rash, which usually appears on the face. While the rash is an indication of inflammation affecting the skin, it can also spread elsewhere, such as the joints and organs.

Muscle or Joint Pain
While joint pain can develop from long-term wear and tear, unexplained joint pain could indicate an immune system issue. The symptom is a hallmark trait of both rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example.

Digestive Issues
Digestive changes such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas can be attributed to poor eating patterns, but prolonged symptoms without dietary changes can suggest autoimmune issues. In irritable bowel disorders, these symptoms can indicate intestinal issues that require long-term care.

Symptoms of autoimmune conditions often mimic the signs of other conditions and illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these conditions don’t have a single test that can confirm a diagnosis. For this reason, it will be important to work closely with your doctor to discuss symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and testing methods. 

Patients today who are diagnosed are looking into other alternative treatment options. One of those options is regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy. Stem cells are naturally found within the body and have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into specialized cell types. They act as the body’s natural repair kit and also have anti-inflammatory properties. If you are interested then contact a care coordinator today!

Stem Cell Therapy & Lower Back Pain: What You Should Know

Stem Cell Therapy & Lower Back Pain: What You Should Know

The lower back plays a critical role in supporting the body and helping us stay upright. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the areas that experience the most pressure. The lower back clinically referred to as the lumbar spine, is made up of muscles, bone, and other tissue. The tissue, in particular, cushions the spine and protects it from the strain on our back, neck, and shoulders.

The lumbar spine comprises five vertebrae, and in between each is a specific type of soft tissue known as a disc. Large muscles also surround the vertebrae, and facet joints, or bands of connective tissue, are located between the vertebrae. Each part of this tissue network plays an important role in the support and mobility of your spine. They work together, balancing each other.

When an imbalance occurs, the result is often back pain. The source of the pain can be a single cause or a combination of factors. At its core, however, low back pain is almost always caused by the degradation of soft tissue. It’s often most pronounced in the spinal discs and facet joints, which contribute to movement throughout the upper body. 

When discs degenerate, the discs collapse, causing the space between vertebrae to narrow. As this happens, the facet joints become strained, causing damage to the surrounding articular cartilage. Once cartilage starts to wear away, bones in the back can rub together, ultimately causing bone spurs. 

Previously, there were few treatment options available for chronic lower back pain, all of which had their side effects to consider. While steroid injections offer temporary relief, they’re associated with side effects such as nerve damage. Surgery may be recommended in extreme cases, but back procedures are invasive and can therefore pose risks. Physical therapy can also help patients find relief, but it’s not always enough to help patients eliminate pain and restore mobility.

Fortunately, regenerative therapies such as stem cell treatments are helping patients find noticeable improvements in their symptoms. These treatments have been shown to be safe and effective, and unlike conventional practices, can help to address the soft tissue damage causing back pain. 

The process entails acquiring the stem cells from either the patient’s adipose (fat) or bone marrow tissues or by a donated source of umbilical cord tissue. They are then administered directly into the compromised area under fluoroscopic guidance. There, the cells kickstart the body’s natural healing process by self-renewing and transforming into specialized cell types. Stem cells have the ability to heal damaged tissue and restore areas of tissue damage. With this cellular approach to healing, patients can pursue a more effective pain relief strategy than conventional treatments alone will provide. If you are interested then contact a care coordinator today!

Exploring the Safety and Efficacy of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Patients with Heart Failure

Exploring the Safety and Efficacy of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Patients with Heart Failure

After a decade of research, the safety and efficacy of intravenous infusion of bone-marrow-derived stem cells for therapeutic treatment in individuals with heart failure have been well established; however, until Bartolucci et al’s phase 1 / 2 randomized controlled trial of intravenous infusion umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs) on heart disease, no clinical studies have examined the safety and efficacy of similar intravenous infusion of UC-MSCs in patients with chronic systolic heart failure (HFrEF).

Specifically, therapeutic treatment of heart failure with stem cells harvested from bone marrow has demonstrated improved cardiac function and regeneration of damaged heart tissue resulting in moderate clinical benefits in survival, left ventricular function, and improved quality of life in patients with HFrEF.

While MSCs isolated from adult bone marrow have demonstrated benefits, the invasive harvesting procedure and differentiation potential related to donor age and comorbidity associated with BM-MSC present several disadvantages when evaluating for clinical application.

On the other hand, when compared to BM-MSCs, umbilical cord-derived MSCs, or UC-MSCs, are easily attainable, demonstrate less cellular aging, and are not obstructed by potential ethical concerns.

With preclinical research demonstrating UC-MSC supporting enhanced vascular regeneration and cardiomyocyte protection, Bartolucci et al’s study aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of intravenous infusion of UC-derived stem cells for therapeutic treatment in individuals with heart failure.

This RIMECARD trial was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of intravenous infusion of allogeneic UC-MSCs in patients with chronic HFrEF. Although there has been limited experience on intravenous administration of MSCs in patients with cardiovascular diseases, it has been well established that MSC-based therapies are considered safe for therapeutic use in this application; further review of prospective clinical trials also did not detect a risk of infusion toxicity, organ system complications, infection, death, or malignancy in treated patients. 

The results of the RIMECARD trial demonstrated that delivery of UC-MSCs seems safe for use in the HFrEF population with observable improvements in LVEF in patients receiving intravenous UC-MSC treatments.  Researchers have proposed many potential reasons for the clinical benefits of the application of UC-MSCs among patients with heart failure including reduction in myocardial cell apoptosis, less myocardial inflammation and myocardial fibrosis, the formation of new cardiac-related blood vessels, and increased cell differentiation.

One notable observation of this study was the notable cardiomyogenic differentiation potential between UC-MSCs and BM-MSCs. It appeared that BM-MSCs presented a more favorable profile of transcription factors related to cardiac differentiation; however, findings demonstrating poor retention rates after intramyocardial injections of BM-MSCs render them potentially insufficient for what is required to be deemed clinically beneficial.

By comparison, the paracrine factors observed demonstrate a significant advantage of UC-MSCs over BM-MSCs with the most prominent difference being the expression of hepatocyte growth factor in UC-MSCs from all tested donors (BM-MSCs showed low to undetectable levels).

While further analysis and outcomes were considered limited based on small patient sample groups, IV infusion of UC-MSCs was found to be feasible and safe among patients with HFrEF, inducing no humoral immune response among test subjects. While findings suggest significant improvements in left ventricular function, functional status, and quality of life, the impact of UC-MCSs in patients with heart failure would be further supported through larger clinical trials.

Reference:  (2017, September 26). Safety and Efficacy of the Intravenous Infusion of Umbilical …. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.310712

Exploring the Past, Present, and Future Treatment of Multiple System Atrophy

Exploring the Past, Present, and Future Treatment of Multiple System Atrophy

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare, progressively degenerative neurological disorder that affects several of the central nervous system’s involuntary (autonomic) functions, including blood pressure, breathing, bladder function, and motor control.

Similar to Parkinson’s disease in both symptoms and progression, MSA has an average survival time of 7-9 years with no known treatment; the condition is generally characterized by slowed movement, rigidity of the muscles, and loss of balance.

With no effective medical treatment for MSA, current methods of treatment involve those known to reduce or manage symptoms and enhance care. However, with the rapid evolution of therapeutic treatments involving the use of stem cells, new research is exploring this application in the hopes of treating MSA and other degenerative diseases.

Stem cells and specifically adult neural, mesenchymal, and pluripotent stem cells are currently being researched in preclinical and clinical trials.

Examination of neural stem cells found in cerebral ventricles, the hippocampus, and within the striatum of the brain tissues, has revealed them to be self-renewing and have the potential to quickly differentiate. When studied in models using mice, neural stem cells were shown to mitigate into lesions of the brain, proliferate, and differentiate into three distinct types of nerve cells. Considering this, researchers believe neural stem cells to be the ideal donor cell for treating MSA. The biggest drawbacks associated with neural stem cells appear to be the difficulty associated with collecting them from the central nervous system.

Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, found in bone marrow, umbilical cords, and adipose tissue are easy to obtain and have been demonstrated to be self-renewing and differentiate quickly. MSC animal models have also demonstrated improvement in Parkinson’s-associated symptoms, the ability to hinder immuno-inflammatory reactions, and the ability to improve overall cognitive ability – all without additional side effects.

Human umbilical cord blood, or hUCB-MNC, is also a known source of stem cells, and specifically mononuclear cells,  which have been found to have high nerve regeneration functionality.  In addition, hUCB-MNC are easy to collect, separate, and survive longer than other stem cells. When transplanted into the brain, animal studies have demonstrated hUCB-MNC’s ability to secrete nerve growth factors, repair damaged cells, and protect neurons.  Other studies have shown that hUCB-MNC appears effective in treating a variety of nervous system diseases by reducing inflammation and regulating immunity within the central nervous system.

Regardless of the characteristics, benefits, and source of the various stem cells, the treatment appears to rely heavily on the method of transplantation for treating MSA. Specifically, successful transplantation relies on the stem cells’ ability to migrate to the CNS and integrate into tissues.

The lack of progress in developing successful treatment options for MSA has led to examining stem cells’ ability to self-replicate, self-renew, differentiate, and secrete neurotrophic factors as a potential treatment method for MSA and other related neurological diseases. As research evaluating the therapeutic benefits of stem cells progresses, the authors recommend continued monitoring of stem cell safety as well as the degree of survival and integration after transplantation into the human body.

Reference: 2018, October 5). Treatment of multiple system atrophy-the past, present and …. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261842/

Exploring Stem Cell Therapy’s Developing Role In Pain Medicine

Exploring Stem Cell Therapy’s Developing Role In Pain Medicine

As researchers continue to uncover potential health and medical benefits associated with the regenerative properties of stem cells, there is growing interest in the field of stem cell medicine and specifically for use as an alternative therapeutic treatment of pain.

Of particular recent interest in this area is the differentiation ability of stem cells classified as totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent.  Stem cells that can differentiate into and form cells and build organs are known as totipotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are able to differentiate into various types of cells. Multipotent stem cells can differentiate into several limited forms of cells. Of the three different types, only multipotent stem cells are found as adult cells in the body, including in organs, placenta, and bone marrow.

Recently, stem cell transplantation has been used as an alternative treatment for pain associated with severe osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, and intractable musculoskeletal pain that does not respond to traditional or conventional medication.

Osteoarthritis

Although stem cells are thought to be a potential treatment approach for repairing and regrowing cartilage required for treating severe osteoarthritis, to date, regeneration of damaged cartilage has proven to produce limited results. One of the significant issues associated with using stem cells to regenerate cartilage is that cartilage contains no blood vessels or nerves, making cartilage regenerations very difficult once it is damaged. Making the process even more difficult, cartilage regeneration can only occur when the entire layer of cartilage and the layer of bone directly below the cartilage is damaged.

As such, therapeutic stem cell treatment possibilities for osteoarthritis include individual or combination treatment(s) of surgical intervention, tissue engineering, and intra-articulation injection of cultured stem cells; of these possible treatment options, intra-articulation injection of cultured cell therapy would be the preferred method as it is the least minimally invasive and most convenient for clinical use.

There have been mixed reviews as to the effectiveness of these treatments and, to date, there have been no reliable and convincing clinical human students with a high level of evidence conducted specifically on the efficacy in functional improvements and cartilage repair surrounding the application of intra-articular stem cell injection therapy. Although some who have had this treatment expressed improvements.

Neuropathic Pain

Stem cells have demonstrated the ability to release neurotrophic factors that enhance the growth and survival potential of neurons, secrete anti-neuroinflammatory cytokines, and provides a cellular source for replacing injured neural cells; this makes the application of stem cells a prime option for regulating and potentially even reversing intractable neuropathic pain.

Studies have confirmed that relieving neuropathic pain is possible through the administering of stem cells, both through intravenous injection and when directly administered to a specific injured site. However, while stem cells do not need to make direct contact with injured cells to produce a neuroprotective effect, stem cells applied directly to an injured site, as opposed to those intravenously injected appeared to better target and relieve neuropathic pain associated with a specific area.

In addition, while a further clinical human study is required, animal models of both diabetic neuropathic pain and spinal cord injury demonstrate that stem cell therapy, and specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), demonstrated improved blood circulation and nerve conduction velocity, reduced pain, and regeneration of the affected nerve. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease who were treated with MSCs injected directly into the nucleus pulposus, or inner core of the vertebral disc demonstrated a reduction in pain and disability comparable to spinal fusion surgery. 

Research has yet to identify an adequate, effective dosage of stem cells and further research on specific stem cell type, dosage, safety, and implantation rate is required. As research into the use of stem cell therapy in pain medicine progresses, it is important to see the development of evidence-based standardized methods of treatment.

While still in the early stage of clinical application, the use of stem cells in the treatment of pain appears to be very promising.

Reference: (2019, October 1). Stem cell therapy in pain medicine – PubMed. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31569916/

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