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Stem Cell Therapy

Regenerative Therapy For Immune System Regulation & Tissue Repair

Stem Cell Therapy
Stem Cell Therapy

Considering the complexities involved in conception, it’s a damned miracle that it happens at all. The timing needs to be exact, the hormonal environment precisely balanced, the moon full, Mercury in retrograde – you know, all the variables you don’t think about when you stumble into bed with someone from the bar. Many more attempts are certainly made, but it turns out that over 200 million pregnancies successfully occur across this beautiful planet of ours every year. How each of them starts is a bit more complicated than a high five or a ‘holy sh*t’ when both lines show up on the test stick. The process of conception is remarkable not just for its ultimate outcome – which is you, sitting here reading this now – but it was how your very first stem cell came to be. That’s right, we all started as a single cell – a stem cell, to be exact. Stem cells are pretty cool. There are a few different kinds which do different things, but in general terms these are the cells responsible for life itself. Early on, stem cells develop into the nerves and blood vessels that traverse and connect our personal landscape, the organs that keep systems operating, and the big melon on top that makes each one of us human. Once we’re all grown up, stem cells take on a more regenerative role. They tell the body how to fix things when our parts break down. Aging certainly takes its toll on all of us, but our stem cells feel those years too. As stem cells age, they become less able to repair our broken parts and put things back together. Their signaling capacities are just not what they used to be, and aging consumes us. But what if there was a way to turn back time? Grab a hold of some healthy one-day-old stem cells and get them to work on our achy knees, foggy brain, and saggy skin? As it turns out, physicians and scientists are doing just that. Like most great things – the Camaro, Buffalo wings, Metallica - stem cells were first discovered back in the 1980s by a physician and researcher named Arnold Caplan. He called them ‘mesenchymal stem cells’, or MSCs for short. Since his original publications, Dr. Caplan stated he wished he would have named them 'medicinal signaling cells' instead, because it was their cell to cell signaling - and not their differentiation capabilities - that drove their regenerative properties. In the lab, MSCs can be manipulated into specific cell lines, but when introduced to a broken human body, they seek out any damaged tissues and get to work on directing repair pathways. Furthermore, MSCs exhibit potent immunomodulatory properties, which makes them a promising candidate for treating inflammatory diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In essence, MSCs teach the body how to fix itself. Stem Cells 101 Generally speaking, there are two kinds of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Let's just get this issue out of the way first - embryonic stem cells are 100% unethical to use for anti-aging, 100% too undifferentiated to work for this indication, and 100% ineffective for regenerative medicine purposes. I have never even seen an embryonic stem cell so assume from here on that I am referring to postnatal or adult stem cells. Adult Stem Cells Even one day old stem cells are considered ‘adult’ stem cells. That sounds confusing because 50-year-old stem cells and one day old cells absolutely do not possess the same regenerative capabilities. More about that in a minute. Generally speaking, adult stem cells fall into one of the two following categories: HSCs: 'hematopoietic stem cells' 

(i.e. those cells used for cord blood banking and bone marrow transplantation)  MSCs: 'mesenchymal stem cells' 

(i.e. those that repair skeletal tissues, cartilage, bone, and bone marrow fat)  HSCs are not used for regenerative purposes. These cells have markers on their surfaces requiring donors and recipients to be ‘matched’. If you need a bone marrow transplantation, you need to use your own HSCs or a closely matched donor’s. Even then, bone marrow recipients require lifelong immunosuppression to prevent rejection.

MSCs on the other hand, are effectively ‘bald’. They carry no markers so matching donor to recipient isn’t required. This is convenient for many reasons as it is the MSCs that do the heavy lifting from a regenerative standpoint. When studying stem cell therapy for things like joint disease, hair restoration, and sexual dysfunction, scientists and researchers use MSCs, so we'll just be talking about these. Where Do MSCs Come From? MSCs are kind of like your in-laws (not you, Ellen.). You can run into them just about anywhere - but only in small numbers. From a practical standpoint, high concentrations of MSCs are only found in in a few places:  bone marrow, adipose or fat tissue, and postnatal or  placental tissue. Placental tissue is just what you think it is – it’s the tissue that is normally discarded following a live birth. When used for regenerative purposes, this tissue must pass a rigorous screening process. Donors are all live, cesarian section births from non-vaccinated mothers.

For regenerative purposes, you can use your own stem cells (autologous) or someone else's (allogeneic). Autologous Stem Cells (Your Own Stem Cells) You can certainly use your own stem cells, and many providers do. First, they need to be harvested using liposuction or a bone marrow biopsy - and they come out looking pretty much like gross yellow goo.

bone mar These are your very own cells, so that’s cool. However, it’s a painful procedure resulting in an unrefined product. In addition to the yellow goo, there are a few other issues with using your own stem cells. One is that as an adult, you don't have many healthy stem cells left, and the ones you do have are already 'old' - even if you don't identify as being old. They just don't have the healing power they did when you were a kid. How long does it take for a kid to be back on his bike after breaking his leg falling out of a tree? How long would it take you? Your mother? You get my point. There is a dramatic reduction in the number and quality of stem cells beyond adolescence.

Another issue has to do with current FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations that stipulate cells harvested for regenerative purposes must be re-injected on the same day. That's fine if you're injecting your own fat cells to plump your face, breasts, or back side, but if they're being delivered systemically, they need time to be cleaned up - and less than 24 hours just isn't enough time to safely do this. I don't want to see anything that looks like yellow goo dripping into an IV line. Allogeneic Stem Cells (Someone Else’s Stem Cells) Is it safe to use someone else's stem cells? Contrary to what you might think, it most certainly is. Remember HSCs or blood cell stem cells? Those are handed off from one person to another all the time. However, these stem cells have markers on their surfaces that can and will be recognized by the immune system. When a bone marrow transplant is performed with HSCs, the donor and recipient need to be 'matched' to avoid rejection. 

MSCs, however, do not have any markers on their surfaces. They are 'immuno-privileged', we say. Like stealth bombers, they go completely unrecognized by the immune system. You can put a healthy MSC from any donor into any recipient and there is no immune system rejection.

So, the bottom line is, you can use your own old and haggard MSCs or someone else's young and spry one-day old cells. All other things being equal, I'd pick the latter, but that's me. How Do MSCs Work?  Immune System Regulation: 

MSCs have the ability to modulate the immune system, reducing the exaggerated inflammatory response like those observed in autoimmune disease and infection. By releasing anti-inflammatory molecules, they help in dampening cytokine storms and tissue damage.

Tissue Repair and Regeneration: 

MSCs play a vital role in tissue repair and regeneration. Administering MSCs may aid in healing damaged tissues, potentially leading to improved function and overall recovery.

Clinical Trials and Research: 

Numerous clinical trials are underway to explore the safety and efficacy of MSCs in treating a long list of medical conditions including but not limited to the following:

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

  • Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Anti-aging (fine lines, wrinkles, age spots)

  • Autism

  • Autoimmune Disease (Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's, Lupus, Ulcerative Colitis)

  • Diabetes (Type 1 & Type 2)

  • Hair Restoration

  • Heart Failure

  • Infections

  • Ligamentous Injuries

  • Lung Disease (COPD, Pulmonary Fibrosis)

  • Macular Degeneration

  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

  • Non-healing Wounds

  • Osteoarthritic Joints (knees, hips, shoulders, spine, etc.)

  • Parkinson’s Disease

  • Periodontal Disease

  • Scars

  • Spinal Cord Injury

  • Sexual Dysfunction (ED, Vaginal Rejuvenation)

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Urinary Incontinence

  • Wellness

Ethical Considerations As with any medical intervention, ethical considerations must be addressed regarding MSC therapies. Safety, donor selection, and informed consent are critical factors in ensuring the responsible use of these and all innovative therapies. Lack of regulatory oversight and unscrupulous providers make it crucial that patients looking into this treatment do their homework. Ethical biologics companies should be registered by the FDA under an IND or IRB. The FDA currently states that this tissue can be no more than 'minimally manipulated' and must be administered for 'homologous use' only. Conclusion Off-label use of stem cells is being studied and used therapeutically worldwide to combat an array of diseases for which conventional medicine has limited or only high risk/low reward options to offer. This is an exciting option for countless Americans seeking safe, innovative, anti-aging therapies. As of the time of this writing, the FDA prohibits the marketing of stem cell therapy for use as a treatment or cure for anything other than certain cancers and disorders of the blood and immune system. 

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