Safety Issues in Stem Cell Treatments
At Personalized Regenerative Medicine, we have seen firsthand how effective adult (nonembryonic) stem cells are in terms of effecting healing, restoration and regeneration. Naturally, safety is something we take very seriously.
In addition to the moral and ethical issues involved with using embryos, embryonic stem cells come with risks such as contamination, genetic instability and cancer risk. Some embryonic stem cell lines approved for research are no longer “pure” human lines since being exposed to mouse “feeder” cells to help keep them viable. The potency of these “older” approved cell lines has also been compromised by their repeated replication over time. These cell lines have accumulated genetic abnormalities which carries the risk of tumor development when used in both animals and humans.
The major challenge with fetal cells as used in foreign countries is the risk of graft versus host disease, which is to say they may cause immune reactions and severe health problems in the patient receiving them. In addition, the use of cortisone and anti-rejection drugs to lower immune reactivity or rejection also promotes the production of glutamate which is toxic to neural stem cells and can compromise the effectiveness of treatments for brain injuries and disorders.
Stem Cells Isolated from Umbilical Cord
Over 5,000 cord blood transfusions, frequently in children with leukemia, have been successfully performed throughout the world with little or no side effects since 1988. Recent research has shown that primitive stem cells from umbilical cord blood have health restoring and promoting benefits on a par with embryonic stem cells but without the ethical and safety issues.
Thanks to improved methods of separating the stem cells from other blood components the “end product” consists of only stem and progenitor cells (differentiated stem cells). Since these umbilical cord stem and progenitor cells have not yet developed mature immune signatures (ABO and HLA antigens on their surfaces), they do not induce graft versus host reactions.
There are several ways that cord stem cells promote tissue and organ repair and restoration. For one thing, cord stem cells produce as well as stimulate the release of growth factors. Stem cells have also been observed to fuse with neurons as well as to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes and glial cells.
The clinical use of umbilical cord stem cells here in the US is only permitted for a narrow range of diseases (mostly cancer) plus FDA approved clinical trials. Accordingly, when a patient comes to Dr. Steenblock with a medical problem that cannot be treated with umbilical cord stem cells in the US and admission to a clinical study is unlikely or out-of-the-question, he makes a referral to a reputable foreign clinic that treats using these cells.
Autologous Bone Marrow Stem Cells
Each person’s own bone marrow contains a wealth of stem cells including very versatile mesenchymal stem cells. When this autologous (= from self) stem cell rich tissue is harvested, processed to a degree allowed by the FDA (“minimum manipulation”), and then is given back to a patient by intravenous or other means, it sets the stem cells in this mix loose to travel throughout the body, engraft, and bring about healing and restoration. And, as this stem cell-rich bone marrow comes from and is given back to the individual patient, the risk of rejection or an adverse reaction is practically nil.