Stemedix

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

In recent years, stem cell therapy has advanced by leaps and bounds. This innovative treatment option has helped thousands of patients to find relief from chronic conditions, sports-related injuries, and debilitating diseases. However, many people have some misconceptions about what stem cells are and what benefits they offer.

Below, we will discuss stem cells and related therapies to help provide a deeper understanding of this exciting alternative treatment option.

What Exactly Are Stem Cells? 

Stem cells act as the building blocks from which all other specialized cells are formed. When they are placed in the right conditions, stem cells divide to form additional cells, known as “daughter cells.” These daughter cells will become more stem cells or specialized cells with unique functions. For instance, daughter cells may become heart muscle cells, bone cells, brain cells, or even blood cells. Stem cells are the only type of cell in the entire body that can transform into new cell types. This makes them an extremely valuable resource when it comes to managing conditions and injuries. They are a viable treatment option for a wide variety of conditions, including chronic diseases and acute injuries.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

Where Do Stem Cells Come From?

Stem cells can be obtained from many different sources. The source chosen for a particular treatment will depend on the ailments the patient is suffering from and other factors such as age and patient preference.
The three primary sources for stem cells are bone marrow, umbilical cord tissue, and adipose (fat) tissue.

Adipose Stem Cells

Adipose (fat) tissue-derived stem cells (ADSCs) are also known as mesenchymal stem cells. They have the capacity for self-renewal. They also have the ability to differentiate into a variety of other specialized cells, which is one of the most sought-after characteristics when harvesting stem cells. ADSCs are essential in reconstructive and tissue engineering medicine. This makes them incredibly useful for treating sports-related injuries that involve tears to soft tissue. They have also been used to treat conditions such as liver disease, neurological conditions, corneal lesions, and diabetes in several clinical trials. (2) Adipose tissue-derived stem cells are also an appealing option because harvesting them is minimally invasive when compared to bone marrow aspirate. The stem cells are collected via subcutaneous lipoaspiration (liposuction). Prior to treatment, the physician performs liposuction on the patient and harvests the stem cells from their own adipose tissue.

Bone Marrow Aspirate

Bone marrow is a spongy, liquid-like tissue in the center of certain bones. This liquid is rich in stem cells and is responsible for making blood cells circulate throughout the body. The pelvis has the greatest amount of marrow and usually contains the highest concentration of stem cells. When harvesting bone marrow for stem cell therapy, the pelvis is almost always used. Before the marrow can be harvested, the patient is provided a local anesthetic to help numb the area. Then, the physician removes the marrow by inserting a needle into the hip bone. The stem cells are then collected from the marrow and processed to treat the patient. Both bone marrow aspirate and ADSCs are referred to as autologous adult stem cells. This means that they are derived from the same individual that is being treated.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

Umbilical Cord Derived Stem Cells

The third potential source of mesenchymal stem cells is umbilical cord tissue. Stem cells derived from the umbilical cord tissues are referred to as hUCMSCs. These cells are harvested from the Wharton’s Jelly, which is a substance that lines the vessels inside the umbilical cord. Roughly 80% of Wharton’s Jelly is comprised of MSCs, which makes it extremely potent for stem cell therapy. Umbilical cord-derived stem cells are some of the youngest cells available. This means that they have a longer cell life than stem cells harvested from adults.

Harvesting hUCMSCs is noninvasive and there is a surplus of tissue available. Umbilical cords are a natural byproduct of child birth and is typically discarded afterwards. Birth tissue is donated by healthy mothers at the time of scheduled cesarean section. Through an informed consent process, expectant mothers submit their past medical and social history which is prescreened through an extensive and complete medical review and pre-natal evaluation This process is performed prior to delivery utilizing the protocols established by various regulatory agencies. Prior to the recovery of birth tissue, stringent guidelines must be met.

All processing is performed in CLIA certified laboratories following the guidelines of both the FDA and the American Association of Tissue Banks. In addition to serologies, culturing is performed in every step of the process. All products are retested post processing to demonstrate the absence of bacterial and fungal pathogens. Like the other sources outlined above, umbilical cord-derived stem cells can be used to treat various injuries and chronic conditions. The treatment is appealing to many patients because of the youthfulness of the cells and the lack of invasive or uncomfortable harvesting methods.

What is the Goal of Stem Cell Therapy?

The goal of stem cell therapy is to help manage the symptoms and progression of various medical conditions by giving the body natural raw materials it needs to heal itself. While stem cell therapy does not cure these conditions per se, the treatment can allow the body to heal itself enough to reduce or eliminate symptoms. When mesenchymal stem cells are administered, their anti-inflammatory signaling, self- renewal ability, and differentiation traits can cause a positive change inside the body.

How Are Stem Cells Administered?

Worldwide, stem cells are administered to patients in a variety of ways, depending on what they are being treated for. The most common administration methods include intravenous (IV) introduction, direct site injections, and intrathecal (into the spinal fluid) introduction. IV stem cell therapy is used as a systemic way to treat conditions that impact the entire body. This may include degenerative and autoimmune conditions, chronic joint pain, as well as other conditions. Intrathecal administration is used to help administer the stem cells through the cerebral spinal fluid to help pass the blood brain barrier and reach the brain tissues. This method is mostly used for neurodegenerative conditions and traumatic brain injury patients.
Targeted site injections are an extremely popular administration method for joint or muscle problematic areas. This approach is useful for treating localized conditions, such as a torn ligament in the knee and can be used in a more significant treatment for spinal injuries and degenerative disc disease. An intrathecal injection is a method of inserting the stem cells into the lumbar or epidural space so that it reaches the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). By injecting these cells in this manner, research suggests the stem cells have a better chance of reaching the tissues of the brain and crossing the blood brain barrier.

How Do Stem Cells Work?

Stem cells can make a positive impact on patients in multiple ways. Since stem cells have differentiation and self-renewal properties, they can replace damaged cells and repair injured tissue.
In addition, stem cells are intrinsically attracted to inflammation within the body. This trait aids in the regeneration process and helps in reducing inflammation. Stem cells also influence the repair of damaged tissues by signaling other cells to behave in a certain way. As a direct result, stem cells has the ability to help improve a patient’s quality of life and promote better overall health.

What Conditions Can Stem Cells Potentially Treat?

World wide, stem cells can be used to treat a wide array of ailments. Stem cell therapy has been researched and found to be a potential alternative option for those wanting to manage their neurodegenerative, orthopedic, and autoimmune conditions. It has also been implemented to help improve the overall wellness of patients.

Neurodegenerative

Neurodegenerative disorders refer to the group of diseases in which “cells of the central nervous system stop working or die.” (5) Generally, these disorders get progressively worse over time. Fortunately, stem cell therapy is a viable treatment option to mitigate the symptoms of many of these conditions, including:
 ALS  Stroke
 Alzheimer’s disease Traumatic brain injury
 Multiple Sclerosis  Transverse myelitis
 Parkinson’s disease
The goal of stem cell therapy when used to mange these conditions is to potentially help halt or slow down the progression of the condition and improve function and quality of life.

Orthopedic

Due to the differentiation trait and anti-inflammatory effects of stem cells, they are also commonly used to treat orthopedic conditions, such as:

 Sports and athletic injuries
 Osteoarthritis
 Musculoskeletal injuries
 Degenerative disc disease
Stem cells respond to inflammatory signals within the body, which allows them to target damaged cells that are associated with the above conditions.

Autoimmune

Autoimmune disorders can be particularly ravaging to patients. Prior to the advent of stem cell therapy, treatment options were limited. However, stem cell therapy is currently being used to help manage several autoimmune disorders, including:
 Lupus
 Rheumatoid arthritis
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
 COPD
 RSD-CRPS
Stem cells respond to inflammatory signals within the body, which allows them to target damaged cells that are associated with the above conditions.

Wellness

Stem cell therapy is not only beneficial for managing conditions and physical ailments. They also have anti-aging and general wellness benefits.

Stem cells can be used for:

 Erectile dysfunction
 Female wellness
 Hair loss
 Facial rejuvenation
Stem cells have the ability to divide and replenish dying or damaged tissue of specialized cell types. This trait makes them ideal for reducing the appearance of aging, increasing vitality, and preventing further progression in conditions like hair loss.

The goal of stem cell therapy when used to manage these conditions is to potentially help halt or slow down the progression of the condition and improve function and quality of life.

Can My Body Reject the Stem Cell Treatment?

Adipose tissue-derived stem cells and bone marrow aspirate are both autologous stem cells. This means that they originate from the body of the patient. Since they are the patient’s own cells, there is no risk of rejection. Once administered, the autologous stem cells will actively seek out any inflammation and begin repairing the damaged tissue. Human umbilical cord-derived MSCs also have little to no risk of rejection within the human body. This is because they are young and undifferentiated cells. Put simply, these cells are not contested or claimed by a specific body. HUCMSCs are derived from Wharton’s Jelly, which means there are no blood byproducts associated with these stem cells. The result is that patients do not need to be matched with a donor before undergoing stem cell therapy using these types of MSCs.

Conclusion

Without worldwide stem cell therapy, patients suffering from serious neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases would have limited treatment options available. In addition, patients that have endured sports-related injuries or developed chronic orthopedic conditions would be forced to rely on invasive surgical interventions alone. However, advancements in the efficacy of stem cell therapies have made them a viable treatment for many of these conditions. Regenerative medicine and stem cell treatments may be pivotal to improving the overall quality of life for thousands of patients. If you would like to learn more about how regenerative medicine, also known as, stem cell therapy, may help you, call a Care Coordinator at 800-531-0831. There may be available personalized treatments through the use of regenerative medicine products that can contain mesenchymal stem cells. We also offer wellness-focused stem cell therapy options for patients that want to maximize their overall health and vitality.
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