Common Misconceptions about Stem Cell Research
Over the past few years, stem cell therapy has grown rapidly as people are beginning to do research and see the enormous benefits of stem cell therapy and how it can relieve pain, cure diseases, and even replace major surgical operations.
However, there are some myths surrounding stem cell therapy and common misconceptions that we would like to clear up in this article.
If you’re new to stem cell therapy and wondering if it is right for you, let’s first go over some basics.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are undifferentiated (unspecialised) cells that can develop into any cell type such as blood or brain tissue. They do this by dividing and producing two daughter stem cells called progenitor cells that can then divide further to produce different types of cell.
Stem cells have the ability to transform into any form of cell in our body, and stem cells can potentially be used as a treatment for various diseases. Some stem cells are even able to divide rapidly, replenishing dying or defective cells to prevent disease from occurring or continuing.
This is why stem cell therapy has become a sought-after procedure as it can help reduce joint pain in the back and knees, help cure diseases, and supplement major surgeries like knee replacement.
Read more about the benefits of stem cell therapy.
How are stem cells used?
Adult stem cells have been used for many years in bone marrow transplants where they contribute to new blood cells and immune system components such as white blood cells. These types of transplants have been used with considerable success in conditions such as leukemia and multiple myeloma where blood-forming tissues have been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
As of recently, stem cell therapy has been used to help treat patients suffering from severe joint and arthritis pain. These stem cells can be taken from the patient themselves or donated, depending on the type of stem cell treatment that needs to occur.
Stem Cell Therapy Myths
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s get into some of the top myths surrounding stem cell therapy.
The following are the top myths that we see have asked by our patients or online.
Myth #1: Stem cell therapy isn’t safe
This is simply not true. Stem cells are no different from the stem cells of our own bodies.
However, each stem cell once extracted, can be treated and personalized to the patient’s specific needs in order to hyper-target.
At StemCures, we have nationally recognized physicians specializing in pain management.
Dr. Alturi has dozens of peer-reviewed articles published on stem cell therapy, certified in Regenerative Medicine by the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians [ASIPP], and is conducting one of the nation’s first clinical trials in treating chronic back pain.
Myth #2: It’s unknown where stem cells come from
Stem cells come from the stem cell lines that have been created through stem cell research.
They can be derived from three different sources: embryos, fetal tissue, or adult tissues such as bone marrow and fat.
The stem cells used in stem cell therapy are either donated, depending on the type of stem cell treatment that needs to occur.
Myth #3: Stem cells come from embryo cells
It is a common misconception that stem cells come from embryos.
In reality, only a small fraction of them are harvested this way and many more sources exist for regenerative therapy such as adults or patients themselves!
Stem cells are derived from stem cell lines.
These stem cell lines have been created through stem cell research, either through embryos or adult tissues such as bone marrow and fat.
At StemCures, we only use your body’s own stem cells for our procedures so you don’t worry about where these stem cells are coming from and what they’re contained of.
Myth #4: Stem cell therapy is illegal in the U.S.
No stem cell therapy is not illegal in the United States.
However, stem cells taken from embryos are considered donated and must be given consent by donors to undergo stem cell treatment.
Stem cells derived through adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat do not fall under this category.
Myth #5: Stem cell therapy does not have sufficient studies
Although the clinical data for stem cell therapy for back pain and knee pain is preliminary, it is very positive.
It has a lot of promise and this is the quote from the ex-FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb. Who has gone on record and said, “adult stem cells can regenerate replacement for cells that are lost to injury or disease. This is no longer the stuff of science fiction.”
Stem Cell Therapy for Knee Pain Clinical Trial
Dr.Phillipe Hernigou has been performing bone marrow stem cell procedures for joint pain for the last 30 years.
In his landmark study, he enrolled 30 patients with severe pain in both knees from serious joint destruction.
Each patient received stem cell therapy in one knee and a total knee replacement in the other knee.
Dr. Hernigou found that:
- He found 70% of patients were satisfied with stem cell therapy and only 30% were happy with a knee replacement.
- Not surprisingly, there were more complications in the knee replacement group.
- Even after 12 years, pain relief from stem cell therapy did not diminish.
- 20% of the knee replacements required a second knee replacement surgery
- Knee regeneration was seen in patients who got the stem cell treatment.
Among all joints, stem cell therapy has been most studied in the knee. Here is a compilation of all the bone marrow knee stem cell studies.
Stem Cell Therapy for Back Pain Clinical Trial
Regarding back pain and stem cells, the best study is from Dr.Kenneth Pettine. He is an orthopedic spine surgeon from Colorado. He identified 26 patients who were suffering from back pain. Their only option was a back fusion surgery. Instead of performing fusion surgery, he injected patients’ own bone marrow stem cells into their discs. He followed these patients for one year. These are his findings.
- 70% of patients reported significant pain relief.
- Most importantly 76% of patients avoided surgery.
- 40% of patients had disc regeneration
- There were no complications
Dr.Pettine later followed these patients for 5 years. He reported that even after 5 years, patients continued to report pain relief. In another important study, 10 patients who were suffering from back pain were selected for back fusion surgery. To avoid surgery, these patients’ discs were injected with their own bone marrow stem cells. These bone marrow stem cells were tagged to they could track them in the body. 50% of patients [5 patients] got significant pain relief and avoided fusion. Out of the remaining 5 patients, 4 had surgery during the study period. The disc material which had injected stem cells was removed during surgery and analyzed. The authors of the study found that
- Injected stem cells survived in the disc
- Stem cells replicated in the disc
- Some of the stem cells turned into cartilage cells
- Stem cells produced collagen and extra-cellular matrix which indicates regeneration
Myth #6: Stem cell clinics are scams
While there are stem cell clinics that have unqualified physicians and charge enormous amounts for their procedures, this does not mean that all stem cell clinics are scams.
On the contrary, most stem cell clinics are very trustworthy and have your health and best intentions in mind.
But, when you are dealing with your money and most importantly, your health, you want to be extra cautious of any potential scam.
Rather you should be made aware of how their tactics so that you are able to tell the difference from an upstanding, ethical clinic, and a clinic that is not.
Patients think all stem clinics are the same. Nothing can be further from the truth. These “fake” stem cell clinics hurt patients by
- Providing poor results
- Charging enormously high fees
- Causing severe complications like blindness, serious infections, tumors, and death.
- Not following the FDA stem cell therapy regulations
- By tarnishing the reputation of stem cell therapy, there is a danger of stem cell therapies being banned. Stem cells have been banned in Canada.
A good way of determining if a stem cell clinic is right for you is to speak directly to the physician and conduct your own assessment of his or her qualifications.
Always remember, legitimate clinics usually have physicians with appropriate credentials performing the procedure. To find out if the physician is qualified, ask the following questions.
- Is the physician board certified in the specialty which treats back pain and/or knee pain? These specialties are usually orthopedic surgery, interventional pain management, physical medicine and rehab, sports medicine, interventional radiology.
- Is the physician does not belong to the above specialties, is he/she received extensive training in the stem cell procedure?
- Is the physician certified in stem cell therapy? This may be rare to find as currently there is only 1 legitimate certifying organization.
“Scam” stem cell clinics rarely have physicians with the above qualifications.
Some of these egregious clinics even employ non-physicians like nurse practitioners or physician assistants to do these procedures.
In some states, even Naturopaths are also doing these procedures.
They do not have the expertise to perform these procedures.
More importantly, they are not equipped to identify and treat complications.