Stem cells have taken the medical world by storm, but many people are unaware of the integral role they play in treating chronic illnesses and diseases. The term stem cell still carries a lot of stigmas — mostly because there are different ways to harvest stem cells and various medical treatment models available. At Innovations Medical, Dr. Bill Johnson uses stem cells to treat a number of illnesses and diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), arthritis, and sports injuries. But, what are stem cells, and how exactly can we use them to treat medical conditions?
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are some of the body’s most unique cells. That’s because stem cells can do two things that other cells can’t:
- Stem cells can multiply
- Stem cells can turn into other types of cells or tissues
This means that stem cells have the potential to heal many types of damaged tissue. In fact, most of the healing that takes place in the body is done by stem cells. When you cut your finger, the damaged cells release special chemicals called growth factors. Growth factors activate dormant stem cells in the surrounding tissue that then produce new skin cells — healing the wound. Once it is healed, the stem cells become dormant again.
By enhancing the body’s ability to activate stem cells and delivering them to an injury, we can heal injuries and diseases that have resisted other treatments. Because stem cells can replicate themselves and fundamentally transform into different types of cells, they have special abilities to make an infinite number of new, healthy cells in the parts of the body where they are needed. Therefore, stem cell therapy replaces or repairs damaged or compromised cells with new, healthy, and functional cells.
Different Stem Cell Sources
Stem cells come from a number of different sources — from embryos and umbilical cord blood to bone marrow and fat. Embryos and umbilical cord blood sources have the most stigma, which is why harvesting stem cells from fat or bone marrow of adults can be a safer alternative. At Innovations Medical, stem cells from adults are the only cells we harvest. They come directly from the patient as a method of treatment. These are also called adipose-derived adult stem cells.
Fat produces a much larger number of stem cells from a single procedure than bone marrow. A typical bone marrow stem cell harvest yields around 60,000 stem cells. A single 25-milliliter syringe of fat can yield 10-30 million stem cells or more. Studies have shown that the two types of cells have very similar characteristics and therapeutic potential. This makes stem cells from fat the easiest and most likely source for future stem cell usage.
Can stem cells be harvested from other people?
Stem cells from other people are called allogeneic stem cells. These most commonly come from newborn infant sources in the form of umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord tissue, or amniotic fluid. It is important to note that amniotic fluid is rich in growth factors but contains very few stem cells. Some controversy exists over whether cells from a younger individual can promote more healing than cells from an older person. Regardless of where the stem cells come from, receiving cells from other people comes with additional risks. These include:
- Possible transmission of unknown genetic disorders from the donor
- Possible transmission of infectious disease from the donor — especially if the donor is from a different country
- Possible rejection of someone else’s cells by your immune system
- Unknown risk of having someone else’s cells growing in your body for many years
Who is a good candidate for stem cell therapy?
While stem cell therapy is a great option for many people, it’s not right for everyone. Patients with active cancer or major infection are not candidates for stem cell therapy. If you take medications — such as anticoagulants (blood thinners) — you’ll need to be able to stop for two to four days around the procedure. In some cases, blood thinners often can be used with caution, but you’ll need to discuss that with Dr. Johnson during a free consultation. The best candidates for stem cell therapy include:
- Medically stable patients
- People who have tried other treatments without success
- Patients with chronic conditions
- Patients looking for long-term relief to chronic symptoms
- Patients with neurological disorders
- Patients with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
Cost of Stem Cells Treatments
The cost of the initial treatment ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. The range in cost is dependent on the complexity of delivering the cells back to you. For example, spine conditions require multiple physicians to deliver the cells back to your body, and this requires an increase in cost as multiple doctors are involved in the procedure. For many people, the initial treatment is all that is needed. However, for some conditions, subsequent treatments may be required, and these are done at a reduced fee.
Contact Innovations Medical for Stem Cell Therapy
If you have chronic or other neuropathic pain and are looking for relief, Innovations Medical is here for you. Our skilled professionals help you decide which stem cell therapy treatment is best for you – keeping you informed and confident in the next steps. We’ve been helping our patients look and feel their best since 2005, and even our most advanced procedures are often minimally invasive.