Since the discovery of stem cells, we have found them in a variety of places. They are found, of course, at the beginning of life as the building blocks of the embryo. But they are also found in the placenta and in the blood contained in the umbilical cord and can be harvested from these sources without creating ethical dilemmas. They are also created all day long in our bone marrow – this is how the body continues to repair itself – and are sent out from the marrow into the bloodstream to settle wherever they’re needed, even into the body’s fat.
It looks like stem cell therapy got off on the wrong foot when researchers discovered them in embryos. Those primordial stem cells set off a religious controversy that has colored the field of regenerative medicine ever since. And, as things turned out, they are not even much use to us clinically.
We have found that stem cells are a little like wine in that where they come from affects their qualities. The most primordial stem cells come from embryos: they are the most powerful – and the most unpredictable, making them unsuitable for therapeutic applications. The most distant stem cells, such as the ones taken from adipose tissue (body fat), are the least effective. And there is a genetic component to successful therapy – a person’s body accepts their own stem cells much more readily than it accepts someone else’s stem cells.
Those of us who work in the field of regenerative medicine are currently trying out different permutations of these variables in order to learn which approaches work better than others. The effect on the marketplace of so many alternative approaches has been bewildering, especially since we are bringing our theories directly to our prospective patients. With so many competing claims, which clinic could be your best choice?
ProgenCell advice to all prospective patients is to look at the clinic’s willingness to understand your individual case and apply divergent approaches. A doctor who insists on holding to a specific protocol is offering one-size-fits-all therapy for his own personal benefit; the doctor who is willing to consider alternatives, even if they’re from a other medical fields, is a doctor who has the patient in mind and is concerned to make each therapy as effective as possible for each patient.