What exactly is StemCell Therapy and what can be treated by it?

In order to understand what Stem cell therapy is, first and foremost we must understand what a stem cell is and what it is meant to do.  A stem cell has the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during its life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, a brain cell, hepatocyte, ect…  These cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. 

 

First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity, which we currently utilize via adipose tissue (fat cells) or through the bone marrow.  Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.  

 

Although commonly used and accepted, the term “adult stem cells” is a little misleading, since these cells are found in infants and children as well as in adults. Adult stem cells produce the different kinds of cells that maintain the body’s tissues and organs, and, importantly, they have the ability to divide and reproduce indefinitely. These cells typically produce the type of tissue in which they are found. Various types of adult stem cells have been identified in many organs and tissues. They range from cells that are able to form many different kinds of tissues to more specialized cells that form just some of the cells of a particular tissue or organ. 

 

Often confused with adult stem cell, progenitor cells are early descendants of stem cells that can differentiate to form one or more kinds of cells, but cannot divide and reproduce indefinitely.

 

Some tissues and organs have more adult stem cells than others. Those organs with fewer or no stem cells (the heart, for example) don’t readily regenerate when they are injured or diseased.

Scientists around the world are actively studying ways to isolate different kinds of adult stem cells, to control and expand the rate at which they make copies of themselves, and to learn how to direct them to form the specific cell types needed for treatment.

 

Adult stem cells have been identified in many organs and tissues, including brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin, teeth, heart, gut, liver, ovarian epithelium, and testis. They are thought to reside in a specific area of each tissue (called a “stem cell niche”). In many tissues, current evidence suggests that some types of stem cells are pericytes, cells that compose the outermost layer of small blood vessels. Stem cells may remain quiescent (non-dividing) for long periods of time until they are activated by a normal need for more cells to maintain tissues, or by disease or tissue injury.  

 

What is the process cultivating the StemCells? 

Adult stem cells can be isolated from the body in different ways, depending on the tissue. Blood stem cells, for example, can be taken from a donor’s bone marrow, from blood in the umbilical cord when a baby is born, or from a person’s circulating blood. Mesenchymal stem cells, which can make bone, cartilage, fat, fibrous connective tissue, and cells that support the formation of blood can also be isolated from bone marrow. Neural stem cells (which form the brain’s three major cell types) have been isolated from the brain and spinal cord.  Many research groups have reported that certain kinds of adult stem cells can transform, or differentiate, into apparently unrelated cell types (such as brain stem cells that differentiate into blood cells or blood-forming cells that differentiate into cardiac muscle cells).  And depending on the patient it could be uncomfortable.  

 

Can StemCell Therapy help with fertility? If so how?

Women with premature ovarian insufficiency may be able to use their own adult stem cells to rejuvenate their ovaries and avoid the effects of premature menopause, new research suggests.  According to the research and clinical trials done in the united states women who had POI and low estrogen were shown to have increased levels of as soon as 3 months after the injection of stem cells, and the effect lasted for at least one year. Their menopausal symptoms had been alleviated, and six months after the injection of the stem cells into the ovaries, they had resumed menses.  Also the ultrasound imaging of treated ovaries showed significant size increase in the treated ovaries compared to the contralateral untreated ovaries. In the cases completed so far, the patients tolerated the treatment very well with no complications or side effects.  So is there hope with stemcells and fertility… The answer is Yes.  There is much research needed in the area but it definitely looks promising and very exciting to us all in the field especially for women who are trying to get pregnant or decrease the menopausal symptoms. 

 

Can StemCell Therapy help with erectile dysfunction? If so how?

Early results of a clinical trial suggest that stem cell therapy may be a promising treatment for erectile dysfunction, after the procedure was found to restore sexual function in men with the condition.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition whereby a man has difficulties getting or maintaining an erection in order to engage in sexual intercourse.   According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, around 12 percent of men under the age of 60, and 22 percent of men aged between 60 and 69, have ED.  High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and prostate surgery are some of the physical conditions that can cause ED. Psychological issues – such as anxiety, stress, depression, and low self-esteem – can also contribute to ED.  Current treatments for ED include PDE5 inhibitors (such as Viagra), penile implants, and injections. However, most physicians and scientist note that all of these therapies can have significant side effects.  For the stem cell procedure, abdominal fat cells were extracted from each man through liposuction. Stem cells were then isolated from the fat cells and injected into the corpus cavernosum of the penis – the spongy tissue that normally becomes filled with blood during an erection.  Many of our patients have had very successful outcomes and no longer need to be on Viagra or Cialis and can have spontaneous erections. We’ve even had a few spouse call us to reverse the outcome that we had accomplished.  

 

Are there any risks to getting StemCell Therapy?

Adult stem cells, and tissues derived from them, are currently believed less likely to initiate rejection after transplantation. This is because a patient’s own cells could be expanded in culture, coaxed into assuming a specific cell type (differentiation), and then reintroduced into the patient. The use of adult stem cells and tissues derived from the patient’s own adult stem cells would mean that the cells are less likely to be rejected by the immune system. This represents a significant advantage, as immune rejection can be circumvented only by continuous administration of immunosuppressive drugs, and the drugs themselves may cause deleterious side effects.

These methods treat the manifestations of ED, offering symptomatic relief but it remains through research to be certain the therapy can result in a permanent cure for the underlying disease process. The pressing need to develop a curative treatment for ED has stimulated interest in utilizing stem-cell therapy in ED patients.

 

Is StemCell Therapy expensive? 

Well define expensive.  Let’s take erectile dysfunction for instance.  The average ED patients will want to have sex more than 6 times a month.  The reason I say 6 times a month is because most insurance companies as well as Medicare will only cover 6 pills a month for a small price of approximately $50/pill.  If you don’t have insurance it will cost you close to $95/pill.  If you wanted to get a full bottle of Cialis 20mg tablets that would run you approximately $2200/bottle a month for 30 pills.  That’s approximately $26,000 a year for the rest of your life for a tiny little blue or yellow “Sex Pill.” And yes there are people that spend that kind of money for an erection.  However, you could save yourself A LOT OF MONEY by doing stem cell therapy because depending on the disease that is being treated it can range anywhere between $7k to $25K depending on the amount of extraction that needs to done and that is usually for 5-10 years. 

 

NYC StemCell Institute

22 West 48th St., Suite 300

New York, NY 10036

646.933.0764

nycstemcells.com

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