In many of our previous blog posts, we have extolled the virtue of stem cell therapy, as well as outlined many of the core conditions and diseases that can be effectively treated utilizing autologous stem cells. Hopefully, individuals suffering from these conditions have absorbed some of this information and are considering the possibility of stem cell therapy for themselves or their loved ones. While we advise any potential patient to gather as much information as possible to make an informed decision about their healthcare, we understand that there is a lot of information out there that can get terribly confusing! With this in mind, we have compiled a list of things to think about when considering stem cell therapy.
- Regenerative Medicine: An Overview
The field of Regenerative medicine may go back to the end of the 19th century with attempts at grafting tissue, the firm basis of regenerative medicine started in the 1950’s with the advent of bone marrow transplants. The more informed you are about the field itself, including the science of stem cells, their strengths and limitations, the better informed you can be about how stem cell therapy can impact your own health and wellness. The most widespread current research into and use of stem cells are supplying stem cells following ablation of the bone marrow for hematological cancers; helping reboot and manage immunological disorders; mitigate orthopedic conditions; and regenerate organs like kidneys, liver, insulin-secreting cells etc. Most of those therapies make use of stem cells found in the bone marrow, referred to as CD34, which usually differentiates into different blood cell types, but can mature along most other cell lines. While we use a different source for stem cells in our practice (please see below), the possibilities are almost limitless owing to various clinical trials happening around the world, which are expanding the indications for use of stem cells towards new and exciting directions for stem cell therapy.
- The Differences between Types of Stem Cells
One of the causes of confusion and controversy is the misconception that all stem cells are the same (coming from embryos or from painful bone marrow stabs). This is not the case. Other confusing terms are multipotent and pluripotent, mentioned in our previous blogs. Multipotent means that stem cells can mature into most types of cells in the human body; while pluripotent (or totipotent), means that the cells can potentially form organs and germ cells… and potentially whole organisms. This remains the prerogative of embryonic germ cells- not “fetal” umbilical cord cells. So, while few stem cell types are pluripotent, most have a more restricted range of differentiation. Certain tissues like adipose (fat) contain several species or types of stem cell; and oftentimes, different species of cells work best for different types of conditions. The multi-species stem cells that we use are great for a wide range of conditions including osteopathic/orthopedic diseases, cardiovascular and respiratory as well as neurological conditions. Further, the stem cells used in medical and clinical research trials are roughly divided into four main types.
- Embryonic – these are controversial due to their origins from the fetus itself. A blastocyst that develops from a fertilized egg evolves into a fetus. These stem cells are capable of forming any of the more than 220 types of cells found in the human body, including germ cells.
- Somatic – these “adult” stem cells are found in most human tissues and organs, they are multipotent and not pluripotent but can differentiate into most cell types.
- Mesenchymal – these stem cells are stromal stem cells found in most tissues of the body, including adipose and connective tissues. These cells are multipotent cells, which can differentiate into cells like bone, cartilage, ligament, fat, and nerve. This is the type of stem cell utilized in practice at our clinic, Gulf Coast Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.
- Induced pluripotent – these are laboratory manipulated somatic cells which are reprogrammed by extreme stress, short of killing them! This type is almost as wide-ranging as embryonic stem cells but without the controversy.
- Most Stem Cell Therapy is Experimental in Nature
The reality of stem cell therapy is that it works, but patients should realize that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence and false claims that put the entire field of regenerative medicine under unwarranted scrutiny. Some unscrupulous stem cell therapy centers promote false information to bolster their own numbers, but this practice does no favors for any of us interested in moving the concept of stem cells as a therapeutic method forward. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that there is a body of dedicated research and clinical trials, identifying potential conditions and therapy matches and clinical proof of efficacy, going back decades. Therefore, if a reputable medical or academic source is claiming that a particular method is effective in caring for a particular condition, it is more than likely true.
- Stem Cell Therapy is a Divisive Topic in Nature
As mentioned earlier, the topic of stem cells is one that has elicited strong opinions on both sides, with people either strongly supportive or absolutely against it. Discussions on the subject, even among educated professionals within the field, are often acrimonious. This makes it increasingly difficult for prospective patients to get unbiased information with which to make informed decisions regarding their medical care. Those against the practice of using stem cells in a therapeutic setting will state (overstate!) the risks of stem cell therapy, despite the fact that there have been no documented cases of significant harm or side effects throughout the numerous international clinical trials conducted. Some critics will claim that there is no safe or effective way to treat conditions with stem cells and that the practice should be discontinued until more thorough research is undertaken through blind-controlled trials, even though a wide variety of conditions are currently being managed with stem cell therapy and the practice is showing great promise.
However, some medical centers, more interested in turning a profit than contributing to the field of regenerative medicine, have been known to bolster their numbers and reputation with exaggerated claims of efficacy and fallacious patient testimonies. While this practice fuels the fire of the critics, it can also lure patients to unsafe or suboptimal facilities. Somewhere between these two polar opposites of thought lies the truth. Some forms of autologous stem cell therapy, when administered correctly, offer an effective and low-risk therapeutic modality. This truth is contingent on the fact that this option is performed in a sterile and clinical environment by a proficient team of providers, which must include a skilled physician. With this in mind, it is even more important that patients have the necessary information to make an informed decision, as well as knowing what questions to ask a provider before making that decision.
At Gulf Coast Stem Cell Regenerative Center, which is an affiliate partner of the Cell Surgical Network, we conduct patient-funded research with the intention of treating patients with their own autologous stem cells. We aid in the management of autoimmune, degenerative, inflammatory, and ischemic conditions; and our highly skilled team of providers is committed to the goal of alleviating symptoms, enhancing functionality, and improving overall quality-of-life for all our patients. Please contact Gulf Coast Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center and let us show you what “Excellence with a Human Touch” means. For more information on the full list of diseases and disorders that we currently address, please call (866) 885-4823 or contact us via our website, today.