How To Be An Informed Consumer Regarding Stem Cells

Be an informed consumer on stem cells

This is a great decade to be alive! There has been many breakthroughs in regenerative medicine and the biggest one that is available to us today is the accessibility of stem cells.

There are over 600 medical facilities in the United States now offering stem cell therapy for issues ranging from the hands and face for cosmetic reasons to vertebral discs and even the brain. Stem cells are also being offered for treatment of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage damage as a result of Sports injuries. Shoulders, hips, and knee regeneration through stem cell application is being performed instead of joint replacement. Intervertebral disc injections of stem cells are being used to prevent surgery. Stem cells are also being used for the treatment of some diseases such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, COPD, congestive heart failure, macular degeneration, and several autoimmune diseases.

There are articles coming out almost every day on the benefits of stem cells in many professional medical journals as well as popular consumer magazines. Added to this, are the exciting stories on stem cell miracles in people’s lives that have been broadcasted on TV, YouTube, and Facebook. This leads to lots of excitement but also lots of confusion for doctors as well as the general public.

You may be surprised by hearing that doctors are also confused by all the new stem cell information. Many doctors attend conferences and hear case presentations along with medical research on stem cells. We read numerous journal articles on case presentations and many of these studies will cite different sources for these stem cells and different techniques for delivering, as well as countless company sales representatives telling us that their technique or technology has more advantages over their competitors. Doubtless, this leaves many doctors with the question, “which product is best for my patients’ needs.”

To dissipate some of the confusion, and to help you become a more informed consumer, I will give you some of the nomenclature of this area of medicine and the five main sources of stem cells being talked about today in the public media.

The most common type of stem cell therapy, and the first to be used, is called allogeneic stem cell. Allo is the Greek word for “other”. These stem cells are taken from the bone marrow of one individual (the donor), and then transplanting it into another person (the recipient).This type of transplantation was first used for the treatment of leukemia, but it was necessary to carefully match the tissue from the donor to the recipient in order to prevent rejection.

The second type of stem cell is autogenic stem cells. Auto is the Greek word for “self”. These stem cells are taken from the person’s own body, commonly from bone marrow, blood or fat. These stem cells are then processed and injected back into the same person. The goal is to have these concentrated stem cells work on repairing diseased or damaged tissues.

The third and fourth type of stem cells are derived from human umbilical cord and human amniotic fluid. These stem cells are collected at the time of C-section from the amniotic fluid, and umbilical cord and are tagged as a donation or “gift of life” from the donors, there is no financial reimbursement given to the donor. Parental social screening is performed along with infectious disease testing, all under the guidelines of the American Association of Tissue Bank. The infant stem cells and growth factors are harvested and placed into a state of cyber freeze. The stem cells found in these tissues are immune naive and they do not trigger an immune response so they can be delivered to another recipient safely.

The fifth source of stem cells are fetal stem cells, these are taken from aborted fetuses and have the potential of becoming every type of tissue in the human body. These cells are unethically harvested and are illegal to use in the treatment of human disease in the United States, but they are used for university research and for commercial product development. Dr. Nebbeling does NOT support this form of research and boycotts products using such research technology. All of the practical and technical advances applying stem cells for the treatment of patients in our office have been done using adult or baby (umbilical) stem cells that have been collected in an ethical or moral fashion.

So, what source of stem cells are the best? All sources of stem cells have the potential to work but some applications are more expensive than others.