What Are Stem Cells and How Do Stem Cells Work?
Stem cells are found in every part of your body and are responsible for the healing mechanisms of our body. They are usually “sleeping” and inactive, but can be activated by tissue damage and the signals that the damaged cells produce. Stem cells have a natural ability to repair damaged tissue; however in people with degenerative diseases there are either too few to repair the damage, or they have not received the appropriate signals to “wake up” and repair damaged tissue. This is often the case when there is extensive damage, chronic inflammation, or systemic illnesses like diabetes and autoimmune diseases. In these cases, providing the “wake up” signals using operative platelet rich plasma (PRP) Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) or providing more stem cells to the area by transplanting them where needed has been shown in experimental studies to have beneficial effects in degenerative conditions.
Disclaimer: Stem cell use is considered experimental and is not FDA-approved for the treatment of any disease. We make no claim of any ability to heal any medical condition using stem cells. We provide this information solely for educational purposes, and without the intention to sell or promote stem cell therapy.
OTHER FDA REQUIREMENTS
- Only Adult Stem Cells can be used
- Must be AUTOGENIC – that is, your own cells
- Minimal manipulation allowed – no culture to expand cell numbers and no additional treatments prior to use
- Must be used for HOMOLOGOUS purpose – per FDA, must “perform the same basic function or functions in the recipient as donor”. If it can differentiate into those cells naturally, it is generally allowed.
Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1271.15, states that procedures which remove stem cells and re-implants the stem cells in the same procedure are exempt from other Title 21 regulations of stem cell usage. This is called the “exception clause”. The only other restrictions are that stem cells cannot be used for reproductive purposes except in sexually intimate partners, human cloning, or if the use of the stem cellsis intended to have a systemic effect.
The Healing Potential of Stem Cells
All humans first start as a fertilized ovum, which is described as being totipotent (“potential to become every cell”). After several days, it grows into an embryo, comprised of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are still very unspecialized and have the ability to divide endlessly and to develop into all of the 220 human cell types. However, a whole human cannot arise from these cells. They have lost their totipotency and are described as being pluripotent (“potential to become a wide variety of cells”). As we grow, the cells of our body become more and more specialized into different cell types and tissues. However, even as adults, virtually every tissue contains some unspecialized cells which help our bodies regenerate and repair themselves. These are called Adult Stem Cells, and are described as being multipotent (“a limited potential to become many cells”).
If body tissue is damaged, several signals (growth factors) are released and wake up the sleeping stem cells, which home in on the damaged area and advance the process of healing. The activation of these stem cells locally also attracts stem cells in the bone marrow to circulate and migrate to the damaged area. Once the stem cells are there, they can differentiate into the type of tissue needed. Although the signals that cause this differentiation are poorly understood, according to the foremost Stem Cell Researcher in the world, Dr. Kotaro Yoshimura, the most important signal is cell death. Stem cells also produce very powerful growth factors such as HGF, VEGF, and SDF-1, which stimulate the surrounding tissues to grow and help in the healing process.
Fat-Derived Adult Stem Cells
Human fat is a rich source of stem cells which is easily obtainable. The Stem Cells from Fat are called Adipose-Derived Stem Cells (ADSC). ADSCs have no ethical or moral issues (such as embryonic stem cells) and pose no possibility for rejection if they are your own cells. Studies with ADSCs have demonstrated the ability to become different cell types, including but not limited to: cartilage cells, bone cells, and nerve cells. Studies have also shown that Adult Stem Cells are capable of homing to and repairing damaged tissue. Animal studies have shown that these stem cells also secrete proteins and peptides that stimulate healing of damaged tissue, including heart muscle and spinal cord. Experimental studies suggest ADSCs not only can develop into new tissues but also suppress pathological immune responses.
Limits of regeneration
Activated Adult Stem Cells attract marrow-derived and circulating stem cells to the damaged area. However, if there is a poor blood supply to that area, they often do not arrive in sufficient numbers, or may even fail to arrive at all. The damaged area then only heals very slowly, or may not heal at all if circulation is not restored or the cause of the disease is not eradicated. It might also be possible that some diseases develop slowly and do not release the growth factors necessary to “wake up” the sleeping stem cells to repair the damage. The use of platelet rich plasma (PRP) in this case should provide the signals needed to activate the sleeping stem cells. Lastly, both smoking and age decrease stem cell response. Smoking decreases the blood supply by damaging vessels. As we get older, the stem cells get “used up” and are less numerous, and these older cells do not respond as well to activation signals.
Adult stem cells do not increase tumor risk
One question that is regularly asked in connection with stem cell therapy is whether stem cells increase the risk of cancer. This is a justified concern if a therapy involves embryonic stem cells because these cells actually do divide at an extremely fast rate, and they have already been shown to have cancer-causing potential in animals and humans. However, at Nouveau Jeunesse, we only use the patient’s own adult stem cells for therapy.
Adult stem cells, which are transplanted immediately after their removal, do not increase the risk of tumor unless the patient already has cancer. Here are the facts based on the current information:
Fact 1: No indications of higher tumor formation have been found to exist over the last 40 years in the therapy of leukemia and lymphoma, which also involves the use of adult stem cells (in this case from bone marrow).
Fact 2: The behavior of adult stem cells depends to a great extent on their environment. There is no evidence to date that adult stem cells promote tumor formation in the human body.
There is one exception. The growth of an existing tumor can be promoted by the insertion of adult stem cells, and tissue that is damaged by irradiation can harden into cancerous tissue after the injection of adult stem cells.
Fact 3: Adult stem cells only tend to form cancerous stem cells if they are allowed to multiply in a culture dish over a lengthy period of time, because the probability of genetic mutation increases in proportion to the number of cell divisions.
Summary: In accordance with the latest scientific findings, the use of autologous Adult Stem Cells does not cause tumors because the stem cells are not allowed to multiply for any length of time outside the body. They are transplanted back into the body immediately after purification. However, no patients with known active tumors should be treated with stem cells.
Information on the long term risks of stem cell use
There is not enough information to know what the long term effects of stem cell treatment may include. However, studies of animals sacrificed many years after stem cell transplantation demonstrate that the stem cells persist, perhaps indefinitely. As already discussed above, there is no current evidence that stem cells cause cancer.
For information on current U.S. medical trials for specific diseases using Adult Stem Cells, please visit The Adult Stem Cell Research Network (ASCR Network) at www.ascrnetwork.com