What are stem cells?
Adult (Non Embryonic) Stem Cells are undifferentiated cells that have the capability to regenerate cells and signal other cells to regenerate damaged tissue. These special cells target areas of injury and disease enabling a person’s natural healing processes to activate.
As we gain a deeper understanding of their medical function and apply this knowledge, we are realizing their enormous therapeutic potential to help the body regenerate itself.
Adult stem cells have been used to repair and regenerate damaged tissues in humans to treat a variety of medical conditions, even when other traditional treatments have not responded.
What is the relevance of stem cells?
Stem cell therapy regenerates cells, repairing tissue of specific organs that are affected by disease. According to several studies, Stem Cells have the ability to signal and differentiate into other types of cells (cardiac cells, bone/cartilage, liver cells, nerve, etc.). In addition, these Stem Cells have the ability to chemically detect damaged tissue, “home” or engraft on those tissues, and directly regenerate them. This kind of therapy helps to increase the tissue’s functionality, resulting in considerable improvement of a person’s medical condition.
Where do stem cells come from?
Stem cells can be obtained from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord tissue called Wharton’s jelly, peripheral blood, adipose tissue and teeth.
After collection, with the exception of bone marrow, the type of processing for isolation, purification, culture and cryopreservation for future use varies. Since bone marrow and umbilical cord are the most commonly used sources, they are explained below:
- Bone marrow. It is liquid tissue rich in stem cells since its function is to produce the cells that circulate throughout the body. The hip bones contain most of the bone marrow and are therefore a large supply of stem cells. In the case of cell therapy, it is not necessary to harvest a large amount of bone marrow to obtain a sufficient amount of stem cells for treatment. The extraction is performed under local anesthesia so that the patient does not feel pain. Bone marrow stem cells have the advantage of being obtained from the same patient, which represents a minimal risk of rejection, there is no need to process the cells, they can be used immediately after the extraction, thus ensuring their high viability; in addition, bone marrow contains many growth factors that are useful for the cells to develop their function, which is why they are considered the first choice.
- Umbilical cord blood. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood or placenta are collected at the time of delivery, with the consent of the mother. Once collected, the cord blood undergoes a process of separation of components and is purified by isolation. Once purified, they can be kept in cryopreservation for several years or even decades. These cells have the advantage of being young with the capacity to multiply rapidly, and not been exposed to the environment that an adult is exposed to in the course of his or her life. In cases where the bone marrow has some restriction, this is the preferred option.
Types Of Stem Cells
There are different types of stem cells, there are mesenchymal stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells and somatic stem cells. When stem cells are harvested from bone marrow, all types of stem cells are obtained. One characteristic found in all stem cell types is the ability to self-renew. This allows stem cells to remain in a state of constant repair when injured. Each of these is briefly explained below.
Mesenchymal stem cells
allow the formation of cells belonging to the mesoderm. They act by regenerating cells found in bone, connective tissue, muscles, adipose tissue, lymphatic, vascular, pleura, pericardium, peritoneum, reproductive system, among other organs and tissues. They are characterized by low immunogenicity, allowing the body to have little or no rejection of stem cells. In addition, they regulate the immune system and maintain neuronal function and integrity.
Hematopoietic stem cells
are responsible for the production of blood tissue cells. They have the ability to form erythrocytes, T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, platelets and other types of cells found in the blood. This provides the ability to increase the number of blood cells in the body and are key to delivering oxygen and nutrients to regenerating tissues.
Somatic stem cells
have the capacity to differentiate depending on the environment in which they are found. They have the capacity to change according to the new signals they receive from that environment. They are responsible for the maintenance and repair of tissues, with the formation of specialized cells in different regions of the body.
Types of stem cell transplant
Autologous stem cell therapy
Autologous stem cell therapy, is the safer of the two types, is that the donor and the recipient are the same person. Patients who use autologous therapy do not have to worry about stem cell rejection, host disease, or hidden dormant disease that were transferred from the donor.
Allogeneic stem cell therapy
Allogeneic stem cell therapy, means that the donor of the stem cells is a different person than the recipient. A person receives stem cell that were not harvested from his own body. Usually, after getting stem cells from a donor, the specimen collected is processed in a lab to isolate the stem cells from the rest of the tissue, culture the cells to increase their numbers and cryopreserve them in order to have them ready when a patient ask for them. Inherent to this process, contamination and damage of natural cell function increase with too much manipulation in the laboratory. A possible complication of an allogeneic transplant is immune system rejection of the donor stem cells, despite conditioning treatment. The patient’s immune cells may detect the donor cells as a foreign agent and destroy them, or they may attack the patient’s healthy cells in an effect known as “graft-versus-host disease” (GVHD).
Due to the stem cell research hype all over the world, we recommend individuals gather as much information as possible in order to get to the correct clinic and to the correct treatment. There are clinics in which the stem cells are obtained from an unknown donor source and the risks involved could be very high. It is highly recommendable to use only stem cells directly from the same person in order to perform autologous infusions, by doing so, there is no risk of rejection or complications during the extraction and/or infusion process.
Stem Cell Therapy Procedure
Performing therapies with autologous cells, without manipulation gives the body an opportunity to recover its health and improve function of most organs.
Therapy with fresh stem cells is based on the fact that a tissue can recover its function with the help of stem cells since. Complete bone marrow usually provides all the necessary components (stem cells, growth factors, proteins, etc.). In all people there is a natural liberation of bone marrow components into the blood stream, but in a small amount, sometimes they’re not enough to repair when disease or damage is present in the body;
Cellular therapy is helpful: when organs, tissue, or organic systems display fatigue signs, tiredness, weakness and degeneration.
The best results and beneficial responses in the patients are achieved when the affected organ -damaged tissue- is still capable of reacting to stimulation; By improving its condition eliminating the cause, the organ or system recovers and gets the body into a positive spiral of healing. This biological effect renews the body’s systems, stimulates and reestablishes the organic function.
Due to the capacity of regeneration and the ability to detect damaged tissue, stem have a wide range of cellular therapy applications. For example, helping patients suffering from a degenerative or acute disease caused by age, disease, or external and consequential agents.
The organs with better regenerative response in our clinic are heart, pancreas and liver, including very broad conditions from poor tissue operation to advanced organ failure like the ones where a transplant is required. Arthritis sufferers have achieved satisfactory results, as have patients with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson, Alzheimer, Lupus and other autoimmune disease, metabolic and neurological diseases, spine and joint lesions problems, and also cerebral vascular conditions.
On the other hand, healthy people, who do not have chronic condition or degenerative disease, but simply wish to preserve the body in good condition, can replenish their physical and mental abilities with Stem cell treatments. Stress and unhealthy habits are toxic components for the body, they aggravate and age tissues prematurely. Aging is a process that cannot be stopped, but an improvement of the quality of life is something that stem cells help enhance, while improving the functioning and regeneration of the organs in the body to its possible best.
Description of an autologous Stem Cell Therapy Procedure
Here is a brief description of the procedure (only for reference purposes). Before your own procedure takes place, we will provide you detailed information step by step of what we are doing during the complete process.
Upon your arrival at ProgenCell, you will be greeted and attended to by our qualified personnel. You will be evaluated by a doctor who will answer any questions you may have, review your medical record, as well as any recent lab work performed in the last weeks. Soon after, you will be taken into an exam room for a complete checkup and to record your vital signs. You will be guided to a dressing room to change into a sterile gown (your personal effects are secured in a locker). All the following processes are strictly followed under Good Manufacturing Procedures standards (GMP).
You will be conscious throughout the entire procedure, and you will be able to observe the sterile materials being used.
The doctor will disinfect the area for bone marrow extraction and numbed the area with a small injection. Once the area has been anaesthetized the bone marrow extraction begins. In the majority of our patients, the initial extraction of the bone marrow gives a sensation of pressure, referred as discomfort, after a few seconds pass, the sensation diminishes to a null perception. The extraction generally takes between 15 and 20 minutes. Once completed the extraction, the doctor will set up the fresh bone marrow in an intravenous infusion, this way the stem cells are in a closed system (avoiding any contamination). The serum canalization will be replaced with the bone marrow infusion; this process takes 15 to 20 minutes. The doctor will take a minimum amount of bone marrow, in order to make a target cell count in the laboratory. When another procedure is going to take place, for example a facial treatment, another small amount of the stem cells will be use to do one or several injections in other parts of the body depending on the expected tissues to be regenerated. Special injections of stem cells are intended to have direct and specific placement to have a direct activation of the tissues to maximize its recovery. Another examples of injections are the lumbar injection or penile injection, among others.
You will not feel any pain throughout the entire procedure, some discomfort when a needle is used for the local anesthesia. You will only feel manipulations in the area while the extraction is taking place, throughout the rest of the procedure patients don’t feel any discomfort. During an approximately 3 days, you may feel a little bruised in the stem cell extraction point, the soreness will be different from patient to patient.
After the transfusion, you will be taken to a patient recovery area where you will be constantly monitored. Some easily digestible foods and liquids will be provided. Usually, you will be able to go home a few hours after the procedure takes place.
A meeting with the doctor will conclude the procedure in order to respond to any questions and to indicate what to expect in the following weeks. Suggestions for your optimal health recovery will be shared. The doctor will provide a prescription if needed and a 24/7 phone number for patient care assistance.
In the next few days and weeks, we will keep in constant communication with you in order to keep track of your progress and to assist you along the way. All of the monitored processes are strictly followed under the Good Manufacturing Procedure Standards (GMP).
Am I a Candidate for Stem Cell therapy?
Before undergoing a stem cell transplant, the specialist must make an assessment of the patient to evaluate the condition and analyze the benefits of stem cell treatment according to the patient’s case, giving the patient all the necessary information to let him/her know how stem cells work in the body and resolve any doubts he/she may have about the therapy, creating a realistic expectation in the patient. Although stem cells are used to treat a wide variety of diseases and injuries, not all patients are candidates for the procedure, because not all of them have the right physical conditions to receive it, or simply their condition will not benefit from the therapy.
However, some patients are candidates for transplantation, not with autologous cells, but with allogeneic cells due to specific conditions of their bone marrow.
To determine if a patient is a good candidate for stem cell transplantation, the specialist will take into account:
- The patient’s general health status
- Type and stage of disease
- History of previous treatments
- Ability to use autologous or allogeneic cells.
- Availability of suitable donors
What are the risks of stem cell therapy?
Any medical treatment carries risks and side effects of varying degrees of severity. Stem cell treatment usually has minimal and relatively short-term effects; numbness or mild pain in the extraction area for a few days afterwards. An extremely low risk is infection at the injection site, but this is prevented at all times during the procedure by preparing sterile areas, using disposable materials and performing the procedure in an operating room. The treated area should be kept free of contamination as part of post-treatment care.
By going to a specialized clinic like ProgenCell, the risks are minimized because the operating room facilities are extremely clean minimizing the possibility of infection. And the sterility techniques by specialists are very careful.
At ProgenCell, 100% of the participants up to today, have had no negative effects as a result from any of the procedures performed in this protocol.
This is due to the following reasons:
- Appropriate facilities for this procedure.
- Treatments take place in a clean room with all characteristics of a sterile operating room.
- Entrance to this area requires clean transfers allowing the procedure to be free of external contamination.
- From moment of collection, until they are infused, ProgenCell’s stem cells always remain in a closed system, even during activation.
- There is NO manipulation or substantial time between the extraction and transfusion.
- At ProgenCell®, embryonic stem cells are not used, avoiding the ethical issues that they entail.
Nonetheless, the fact that it is not harmful, is not enough for ProgenCell®; our main goal is improving your medical condition as well as your quality of life.