Frequently Asked Questions about Stem Cells and Adult Stem Cell Therapy
1) What are stem cells?
A Patient’s Guide to Adult Stem Cells
Stem cells are unspecialized or undifferentiated cells, capable of two processes: self-renewal and differentiation/specialization.
2) What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a new and advancing scientific field focused on the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue utilizing stem cells that promote natural healing.
3) What is the difference between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells?
The adult stem cells used in adult stem cell therapy are found in mature adult tissues including bone marrow and fat. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are not found in the adult human body. ESCs are obtained from donated in-vitro fertilizations. The use of ESCs raises many ethical concerns for many reasons, one of which is that ESCs are not autologous (from your own body), thus, there is a possibility of immune rejection. Adult stem cells do not raise any ethical issues nor pose any risks for immune rejection. Adult autologous stem cells, as in the cells used by the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute, are simply your own cells working for you.
4) Does the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute research or use embryonic stem cells in clinical procedures?
No, the cell therapy systems used by the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute use only autologous adult stem cells isolated from the patient. The Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute does not participate in embryonic stem cell research or use embryonic stem cells in any of our clinical applications.
5) Are there ethical issues associated with harvesting adult stem cells?
No, adult stem cells do not raise ethical questions as they are harvested from the patient’s body and simply returned, or relocated, to that same patient during the same procedure.
6) Are there cancer-causing risks associated with adult stem cell therapy?
No. Where embryonic stem cells have been shown to form teratomas (germ cell tumors), there is no data that suggests adult stem cells have the same potential to promote the development of tumors.
7) Where do adult stem cells come from?
In adults, stem cells are present within various tissues and organ systems, the most common being bone marrow and fat tissues.
8) How does the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute obtain stem cells for use in adult stem cell therapy?
The Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute uses a system that uses adult stem cells from bone marrow tissue. The stem cells are obtained through an aspiration procedure.
9) How are adult stem cells used?
Adult stem cells are used to treat patients with damaged tissues due to age or deterioration. During the procedure, stem cells are isolated from the patient, concentrated and delivered back to the patient at their site of injury to assist in the healing process.
10) Are there different types of adult stem cells?
Yes, there are many types of adult stem cells found in the body that have variable differentiation/specialization potential. The adult stem cells that aid in the repair of damaged tissue are multipotent, mesenchymal stem cells. These are located in bone marrow and fat tissue. These cells can become only four different tissue types: bone, cartilage, muscle, or other connective tissues such as tendon or ligament.
11) Are the harvested adult stem cells expanded in a laboratory setting prior to delivery back to the patient during adult stem cell therapy?
No, the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute does not use in vitro expansion. The stem cells are harvested, processed in the procedure room, and delivered back to the patient at the same point of care.
12) How do stem cells know what type of tissue to develop into?
The differentiation of stem cells is dependent on many factors, including cell signaling and micro-environmental signals. Based on these cues, stem cells are able to develop into healthy tissue needed to repair damaged tissue. For example, multipotent stem cells delivered to damaged bone will develop into bone cells to aid in tissue repair. Cells delivered into a joint or disc will develop into cartilage cells. The exact mechanism of lineage-specific differentiation is unknown at this point.
13) Will my body reject the stem cells?
No, adult stem cells are autologous and non-immunogenic.
14) Where are stem cells currently being used?
Autologous adult stem cells are currently being used in hospitals and clinics during surgery, and other procedures, to aid in the repair of damaged tissues. Stem cells are also being used in both laboratory and clinical settings. Laboratories are using human and animal-derived stem cells to conduct in-vitro studies as well as in-vivo studies with small and large animals.
15) What medical disciplines are currently using stem cells in their treatment?
Stem cells are currently being used in orthopedic, cardiovascular, trauma and plastic surgeries and to treat disease. At the Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute, we specialize in adult stem cell applications for both orthopedic and spine conditions.
16) What conditions would exclude me from being able to undergo adult stem cell therapy for orthopedics?
For spine patients, if you have severe stenosis or spondylolisthesis, or other spine instability, you would not be a good candidate for stem cell therapy. For other orthopedic patients, a fracture or acute trauma (such as a complete ACL or meniscus tear) would exclude you. Even if stem cells won’t help you, we can evaluate your condition and provide you with alternatives. Please contact us if you’d like to schedule an appointment.
17) Are stem cells from a diabetic or a patient with any other autoimmune disease considered less viable or “unhealthy”?
No, all stem cells are equal regardless of diabetes or other autoimmune disease.
18) Is adult stem cell therapy covered by insurance?
Currently, insurance doesn’t cover stem cell treatment, but there are other orthopedic and spine treatments we can recommend that are covered by insurance. Please contact us if you would like to know more.
19) Are there any clinical trials involving adult stem cells?
The Spine Institute is currently enrolling patients for two Mesoblast studies. Learn more here. The Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute has ongoing enrollment, and wait listing, for Autologous Adult Stem Cell application studies. Click here to contact our research coordinator for more information.