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FAQ’s on Stem Cell Injections, Stem Cell Treatment
What are stem cells?
There is a wide variety of stem cells, and these can be formed at different stages in the life cycle and be harvested from different parts of the body. There is no “one size fits all” stem cell: they can be embryonic stem cells that are formed during the gestational period, or adult/tissue-specific stem cells that initially formed during our development as fetuses and remain with us for life.
The different kinds of stem cells perform specific functions. They are limited in their potential for growth, and normally differentiate into the tissues from which they are derived. Therefore, it is important to be wary of physicians who offer stem cells that originate from a part of the body different from the target. A single stem cell will unlikely be able to treat a wide host of unrelated conditions, such as osteoporosis and macular degeneration. The stem cell type must match the disease/condition treated.
How are stem cells used for treatment?
Despite all the attention that stem cell therapy has received in the media, stem cells have been
approved for a very limited spectrum of conditions. Most research has dwelled on the use of blood stem cell transplantation as part of therapeutics for the immunological and hematological (blood) systems,
although stem cells have been offered as a cure-all for conditions as diverse as spinal cord injury, diabetes, wound healing, among others.
Other injuries and diseases to the bone, skin, and other organs can be treated with grafting tissues and stem cells. Stem cells have also been marketed as an anti-aging therapy, although more research is still warranted. Movement disorders have also been shown to respond to stem cell therapy. It is theorized that these effects are secondary to the increased levels of growth and healing factors that accompany stem cell therapy.
What are the outcomes for stem cell injection?
The injection of stem cells as therapy is a generally safe procedure, and is well tolerated by most patients. However, patients should know that stem cells should be complementary or similar to the area being treated.
It is unlikely that a stem cell derived from cardiac tissue will suddenly differentiate into a muscle cell, or neurologic tissue.
As this is a surgical procedure (albeit a minor one), the general risks of surgery include:
Infection of the surgical site
Intra-operative damage to the surrounding nerves, muscles and tissues
Persistent pain at the surgical site
Bleeding and/or hematoma formation
Adverse outcomes that may result from a stem cell injection include:
It should be noted that adverse outcomes are fairly rare with the procedure of stem cell injection. It also is important to differentiate the actual, clinical, improvements noted by your physician from any influence of the placebo effect.
Stem cell injection has been shown to be effective in the treatment of blood disorders, however their use for more novel therapeutics, such as for arthritis, for injury healing (targeted to athletes), and for cosmetics has not yet been validated by large-scale international studies, and the procedure is taken at the patient’s own risk.
Iohara K, Murakami M, Takeuchi N, et al. A novel combinatorial therapy with pulp stem cells and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor for total pulp regeneration. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2013 Jul;2(7):521-33. doi: 10.5966/sctm.2012-0132.
Kim J, Lee JH, Yeo SM, Chung HM, Chae JI. Stem cell recruitment factors secreted from cord blood-derived stem cells that are not secreted from mature endothelial cells enhance wound healing. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 2013 Nov 5.
Mochizuki H, Choong CJ, Yasuda T. The promises of stem cells: stem cell therapy for movement disorders. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2014 Jan;20 Suppl 1:S128-31. doi: 10.1016/S1353-8020(13)70031-2.