What is a Stem Cell?
Stem cells are becoming a crucial part of regenerative medicine, which consists of treatments intended to restore the body’s tissues and organs by prompting cells to regenerate themselves. For example, when stem cells are injected into damaged cartilage in joints, the cartilage regrows and the joint can once again function normally. That’s because stem cells have the ability to replicate themselves for long periods of time and to become specialized cells. In the case of joints, the stem cells create new cartilage tissue to replace damaged and missing cartilage.
Normally, the specialized cells in our bodies replicate themselves to maintain and repair tissues and organs, but when the cells can no longer do that, disease and chronic pain happen. Much like a stable building needs to have a strong foundation, we can’t be healthy if our foundational building blocks—our cells—aren’t performing the way they are meant to perform. Stem cells can replace worn-out blocks to create new, strong foundations. Perhaps not surprisingly, regenerative medicine is also known as “reparative medicine.”
Stem cells that are “pluripotent” are cells that can become whatever kind of specialized cell is needed, whether that’s cartilage cells, muscle cells, brain cells, or any other cell type. “Multipotent” stem cells can become one of several different kinds of specific cells—for example, mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into cartilage cells as well as bone, muscle, and adipose cells. Once a cell has become a specific type of cell, it’s not pluripotent or multipotent and can’t differentiate into another kind of cell. In other words, a stem cell has the ability to become whatever tool you need when building a house, but a cell that is already functioning as a hammer can’t suddenly become a drill.
Stem Cell Therapy
With stem cell therapy, a person can grow healthy cells to restore the functionality of the original cells. This means patients with degraded joints can be treated with stem cell injections rather than surgery (which always involves associated risks).
In the future, stem cell therapy may be able to regenerate entire organs instead of patients having to have transplants, and researchers are also investigating whether stem cells can be used to treat spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, severe burns, and arthritis, among other difficult-to-treat conditions. Stem cells have also been shown to accelerate wound healing by modulating the immune system response.[i]
Types of Stem Cell Therapies That Exist
Adipose-derived stem cells come from a patient’s own fat.[i] Not only is fat a rich source of stem cells (it has about 500 times more stem cells per teaspoon than bone marrow does), but because a patient’s own cells are being used, it’s very unlikely that the body would reject the stem cells. The fat is obtained through a simple liposuction procedure and is then processed and cleaned to make it more efficient to distribute to joints.
The type of stem cells found in adipose tissue are mesenchymal stem cells that are able to differentiate into cartilage cells as well as bone, muscle, and adipose cells. These adult stem cells are also called “multipotent” because they have the ability to become one of four different kinds of cells, and they are autologous because they come from the patient’s own body rather than from an external donor. (“Auto” in Greek means “self”—think “autobiography” and “autograph.”)
Umbilical cord stem cells come from cords donated to blood banks.[ii] The cord blood is tested and screened and then frozen with a technique called “cryopreservation” to be stored for future use. Like adipose-derived stem cells, the cells from umbilical cord blood are multipotent mesenchymal adult stem cells. (Adult stem cells are also called “somatic stem cells.”)
These cells are useful for treating patients who cannot use their own adipose tissue, such as people who have poor wound healing or diabetes or are on blood thinners. Other candidates for umbilical cord blood stem cells are patients who may not be able to tolerate liposuction procedures.
Bone marrow stem cells or hematopoietic stem cells are multipotent mesenchymal adult stem cells derived from a patient’s bone marrow.[iii] While stem cells were and still are extracted from blood marrow, the procedure involves drilling through bone to harvest the cells and is far more uncomfortable for patients than a mini liposuction procedure.
Because of the discomfort involved and because there are far more stem cells in adipose tissue than in bone marrow, Allure Medical does not use this technique.
Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that were fertilized in vitro (not in a woman’s body) at fertilization clinics. These embryos are donated for research purposes with the informed consent of the donors. Although this type of stem cell is extensively used in research settings due to the fact that they are pluripotent, Allure Medical does not use embryonic stem cells.
The Kind of Stem Cell Therapy at Allure Medical
Allure Medical focuses on helping patients who suffer from osteoarthritis and joint and orthopedic conditions. Commonly treated joints include knees, hips, shoulders, hands, and elbows. Depending on the patient’s individual needs, adipose-derived stem cells or stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood may be used. Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is often used in conjunction with stem cells to accelerate the body’s anti-inflammatory and healing responses.
Like adipose-derived stem cells, PRP is also derived from the patient’s own body via a quick and painless process, in this case, a blood draw. And because a hormonal imbalance can exacerbate joint pain by contributing to weight gain, muscle loss, and inflammation, a patient’s hormonal levels may also be evaluated and appropriately treated. (Balanced hormone levels can also decrease the risk of cardiac disease.)
Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan during their consultation. Patients also receive a post-procedure healthy eating plan they can use in conjunction with the stem cell treatment to enhance their daily and long-term health. Typically, within a week of their treatment, patients feel an improvement in their symptoms due to the anti-inflammatory effects of stem cells and PRP. This effect lasts for up to 14 days and then holds steady, with more relief felt between 3 and 6 months. The regenerative process continues for about 24 months, and results have been shown to last for 5 to 7 years. Most patients have 30% to 50% of improvement from their baseline symptoms.
Where Allure Medical Retrieves Stem Cells
Adipose-derived stem cells and PRP are autologous and harvested from the patient’s own body. For umbilical cord stem cells, Allure Medical gets them from two FDA-registered labs: Organicell and Utah Core Bank. Specifically, Allure uses exosomes from Organicell.[i]
These are nano-particle components of mesenchymal adult stem cells that issue therapeutic messaging signals. Because they show such promise, exosomes are currently being used in FDA-approved investigational new drug (IND) clinical trials.
Allure Medical Stem Cell Therapy Statistics
- 1,200 patients treated, all with moderate to severe arthritis
- 90% of patients got at least 50% better
- 3 months after the injection, MRI showed a 25% increase in cartilage on average
- Growth continued for at least 2 years following the injection
- Improvement lasts 5 to 7 years
- <2% of patients went on to get a joint replacement
Stem Cell Therapy Verse Joint Replacement
We use stem cells to regenerate and stimulate the growth of new cartilage, with no downtime or sedation. This eliminates the need for a knee replacement and the risks that come along with surgery.
Stop Managing. Start Regenerating.
We get used to having symptoms and we think that’s just our baseline or that we’re “getting old.” Typically, in healthcare, we’re managing disease and managing chronic illnesses, whereas stem cell therapy regenerates our bodies back to where they were before.
The Process of Retrieving Stem Cells
Blood is collected from the umbilical cord, analyzed, and the stem cells are separated.
The stem cells are stored and kept at the perfect temperature and sent as needed.
The stem cells are injected into the joint by one of our highly trained providers.