Stem Cell Therapies

One of the newest and most exciting treatments available now involves using stem cells to heal the body.  Stem cells are fundamental cells that have not specialized to form a tissue type.  All cells in the body will specialize or differentiate so that a hair cell is different from a muscle cell and skin cell is different from a cartilage cell.  Each cell type has its own structure and function, but each cell type differentiated from a stem cell.  When tissues in the body have degenerated, such as with the joint cartilage in osteoarthritis, we can use stem cells to facilitate regeneration in that tissue.  

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The stem cells we use therapeutically come in two varieties: autologous and allogeneic.  

Autologous stem cells come from your own tissues and include adipose cells (fat cells) and bone marrow cells.  These are adult derived stem cells, as opposed to embryonic derived or fetal derived.  Autologous stem cells have the advantage of using your own cells and have the disadvantage of requiring a separate procedure to harvest those cells. 

Allogeneic cells that are used in regenerative medicine injections come from donated cells that are harvested from healthy fetal tissue.  This tissue includes the umbilical cord and placenta, which are normally discarded after a baby is born.  When a mother delivers a healthy baby via an elective caesarian delivery, sometimes she will donate the placenta and umbilical cord for medical use.  After the baby is born, the mother is screened and the tissue can be voluntarily donated.  From there the umbilical cord and placenta can be sent off to a lab to harvest the stem cells for medical use.  Reputable labs will also test and culture the tissue to ensure no infection is present.  These types of allogeneic fetal stem cells include: umbilical cord blood tissue, placental amniotic membrane tissue, placental amniotic fluid, and Wharton’s Jelly.

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Which tissue type is better: autologous or allogeneic?

The answer to this question depends upon many factors.  In many cases, using one’s own autologous stem cells is ideal, but there are good reasons to consider allogeneic fetal stem cells.  Age is a factor, as the number of autologous stem cells declines with age, as does their ability to differentiate.  Therefore, in some cases older patients may not opt to use their own adult autologous stem cells.  This discomfort of harvesting the stem cells is also a factor.  For bone marrow aspiration, a large needle has to be tapped into the bone marrow to aspirate the stem cells; and some people opt out due to the inherent mild pain to the procedure.  Lastly, immune suppressing medication may make one’s own adult autologous stem cells a poor choice.  Immunosuppressant medication often prescribed with autoimmune diseases as well as chemotherapy and other immune suppressing medications may result in autologous stem cells to be a poor choice.  These and many more factors may help decide which type of stem cell therapy is suited to your condition.  Contact us at Vivify today to find out if stem cell therapies are right for you. 

How do stem cells work?

Stem cells can duplicate and replicate and can become any of a number of types of cells.  This ability for a stem cell to become a specialized type, such as hair cell, a heart cell, skin cell, or a cartilage cell is something we call pluripotency. 

 
When stem cells are injected into a damaged tissue they settle into the areas of damage and are stimulated by signaling pathways that signal these stem cells to divide and differentiate.  By dividing, the stem cell is capable of self-renewal and maintaining the number of stem cells.  By also differentiating, the cells are able to replenish damaged cells that have specialized.  For example, when we inject stem cells into an arthritic knee, the stem cells are signaled by the damaged cartilage to divide and differentiate into cartilage cells.  The stem cells also release growth factors and cytokines that promote healing, regeneration, and stimulation of your own stem cells.  This is why we call it regenerative medicine!  We are using stem cells to promote regeneration of tissue that cannot regenerate on its own!
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Can stem cells help me?

Dr. Karl Robinson has years of experience in performing regenerative medicine injections with stem cells for many joint, ligament, tendon, and muscle injuries.  Make an appointment today for your evaluation to see if stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine is right for you!