Stem Cell Injection
Stem cells are the body's raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells.
These daughter cells either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells or bone cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.
Why is there such an interest in stem cells?
- Increase understanding of how diseases occur. By watching stem cells mature into cells in bones, heart muscle, nerves, and other organs and tissue, researchers and doctors may better understand how diseases and conditions develop.
Generate healthy cells to replace diseased cells (regenerative medicine). Stem cells can be guided into becoming specific cells that can be used to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissues in people.
People who might benefit from stem cell therapies include those with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer and osteoarthritis.
Stem cells may have the potential to be grown to become new tissue for use in transplant and regenerative medicine. Researchers continue to advance the knowledge on stem cells and their applications in transplant and regenerative medicine.
Test new drugs for safety and effectiveness. Before using investigational drugs in people, researchers can use some types of stem cells to test the drugs for safety and quality. This type of testing will most likely first have a direct impact on drug development first for cardiac toxicity testing.
New areas of study include the effectiveness of using human stem cells that have been programmed into tissue-specific cells to test new drugs. For the testing of new drugs to be accurate, the cells must be programmed to acquire properties of the type of cells targeted by the drug. Techniques to program cells into specific cells continue to be studied.
For instance, nerve cells could be generated to test a new drug for a nerve disease. Tests could show whether the new drug had any effect on the cells and whether the cells were harmed.
Where do stem cells come from?
Embryonic stem cells. These stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells.
These are pluripotent (ploo-RIP-uh-tunt) stem cells, meaning they can divide into more stem cells or can become any type of cell in the body. This versatility allows embryonic stem cells to be used to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs.
Adult stem cells. These stem cells are found in small numbers in most adult tissues, such as bone marrow or fat. Compared with embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells have a more limited ability to give rise to various cells of the body.
Until recently, researchers thought adult stem cells could create only similar types of cells. For instance, researchers thought that stem cells residing in the bone marrow could give rise only to blood cells.
However, emerging evidence suggests that adult stem cells may be able to create various types of cells. For instance, bone marrow stem cells may be able to create bone or heart muscle cells.
This research has led to early-stage clinical trials to test usefulness and safety in people. For example, adult stem cells are currently being tested in people with neurological or heart disease.
Adult cells altered to have properties of embryonic stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). Scientists have successfully transformed regular adult cells into stem cells using genetic reprogramming. By altering the genes in the adult cells, researchers can reprogram the cells to act similarly to embryonic stem cells.
This new technique may allow researchers to use reprogrammed cells instead of embryonic stem cells and prevent immune system rejection of the new stem cells. However, scientists don't yet know whether using altered adult cells will cause adverse effects in humans.
Researchers have been able to take regular connective tissue cells and reprogram them to become functional heart cells. In studies, animals with heart failure that were injected with new heart cells experienced improved heart function and survival time.
Perinatal stem cells. Researchers have discovered stem cells in amniotic fluid as well as umbilical cord blood. These stem cells also have the ability to change into specialized cells.
Amniotic fluid fills the sac that surrounds and protects a developing fetus in the uterus. Researchers have identified stem cells in samples of amniotic fluid drawn from pregnant women to test for abnormalities — a procedure called amniocentesis.
More study of amniotic fluid stem cells is needed to understand their potential.
Why is there a controversy about using embryonic stem cells?
Embryonic stem cells are obtained from early-stage embryos — a group of cells that forms when a woman's egg is fertilized with a man's sperm in an in vitro fertilization clinic. Because human embryonic stem cells are extracted from human embryos, several questions and issues have been raised about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research.
The National Institutes of Health created guidelines for human stem cell research in 2009. The guidelines define embryonic stem cells and how they may be used in research, and include recommendations for the donation of embryonic stem cells. Also, the guidelines state embryonic stem cells from embryos created by in vitro fertilization can be used only when the embryo is no longer needed.
Where do these embryos come from?
The embryos being used in embryonic stem cell research come from eggs that were fertilized at in vitro fertilization clinics but never implanted in a woman's uterus. The stem cells are donated with informed consent from donors. The stem cells can live and grow in special solutions in test tubes or petri dishes in laboratories.
Why can't researchers use adult stem cells instead?
Although research into adult stem cells is promising, adult stem cells may not be as versatile and durable as are embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells may not be able to be manipulated to produce all cell types, which limits how adult stem cells can be used to treat diseases.
Adult stem cells also are more likely to contain abnormalities due to environmental hazards, such as toxins, or from errors acquired by the cells during replication. However, researchers have found that adult stem cells are more adaptable than was first thought.
What are stem cell lines and why do researchers want to use them?
A stem cell line is a group of cells that all descend from a single original stem cell and are grown in a lab. Cells in a stem cell line keep growing but don't differentiate into specialized cells. Ideally, they remain free of genetic defects and continue to create more stem cells. Clusters of cells can be taken from a stem cell line and frozen for storage or shared with other researchers.
What is stem cell therapy (regenerative medicine) and how does it work?
Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the repair response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. It is the next chapter in organ transplantation and uses cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply.
Researchers grow stem cells in a lab. These stem cells are manipulated to specialize into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells.
The specialized cells can then be implanted into a person. For example, if the person has heart disease, the cells could be injected into the heart muscle. The healthy transplanted heart muscle cells could then contribute to repairing defective heart muscle.
Researchers have already shown that adult bone marrow cells guided to become heart-like cells can repair heart tissue in people, and more research is ongoing.
Has therapeutic cloning in people been successful?
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Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT ARE STEM CELLS?
Stem cells are incredible cells with the power to divide without limits and become nearly any type of cell in the body. Most cells in your body, when they divide, can only reproduce themselves. A muscle divides and becomes another muscle cell; a blood cell divides to become another blood cell. Stem cells can become other stem cells, or they can turn into virtually any other cell in the body. This gives them incredible potential when it comes to healing.
WHAT KINDS OF STEM CELLS ARE THERE?
There are two kinds of stem cells found in nature: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. (There is a third type of stem cell, induced pluripotent stem cells, but those can only be created in a laboratory.) Embryonic stem cells are found in blastocysts, embryos that are 3-5 days old. Left alone, they’ll develop into every type of cell in the body. Adult stem cells are found in all people, usually in the bone marrow and adipose tissue (belly fat). Both have potential when it comes to healing various injuries and diseases.
WHY IS THERE AN ETHICAL CONTROVERSY REGARDING STEM CELLS?
Actually, only embryonic stem cells are considered to be ethically controversial. This is because the embryo is destroyed in the process of harvesting embryonic stem cells. Many people see this as destroying human life, so it’s easy to see where the controversy comes from.
However, adult stem cells do not come from embryos – they come from adult patients who have given informed consent to the procedure. In order to treat the patient, the stem cells are simply moved from one part of the patient’s body to another part. It’s as ethically controversial as a skin graft, which is to say, not controversial at all.
WHAT KIND OF STEM CELLS DO YOU USE IN YOUR PRACTICE?
We use only adult stem cells in accordance with the FDA Controlled Guidances of Autologous Treatment. This is also because it’s essential that we use the patient’s own cells for the procedure. If we were to use stem cells from another person or an embryo, the patient’s immune system would see them as invaders and attack them. Needless to say, this would not help the patient.
WHERE DO THE STEM CELLS YOU USE COME FROM?
We take our stem cells from our patients’ bone marrow in the leg or adipose tissue (belly fat). Where we take the stem cells from depends on the age of the patient. Patients under 50 usually have their stem cells taken from bone marrow; for patients over 50, we generally get better results from adipose tissue.
HOW DOES THE PROCESS WORK?
In our practice, the stem cells work in conjunction with PRP or PPP to heal injured joints, ligaments, and other tissues. Once we’ve taken the stem cells from your body, we mix them with PRP or PPP and carefully inject them at the site of your original injury. When the cells arrive, the stem cells are “programmed” to turn into whatever is needed to heal the injury, whether that’s cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or other tissues. The result is true healing: new tissue that gives you the same feel and function as you had before the injury.
WHAT ELSE CAN STEM CELLS BE USED FOR?
There is great potential for stem cells to be used for healing a wide range of problems, including everything from growing new organs for patients needing transplants to healing diseases like diabetes and heart disease. However, we’re not quite there yet. So for now, the National Stem Cell Clinic is focusing on what’s been proven to work: using stem cells to heal injuries and help patients feel better
WHAT IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
Contact us! We would be happy to meet with you for a consultation and help you learn more about stem cell treatment and what it can do for you. We can also put any of your ethical concerns to rest. Just call us today to ask for an appointment.