Is it possible to have cells in our body that could transform into other tissues and repair almost automatic tissues and organs damaged by diseases, trauma or aging?, And if true, is it possible to use these cells to improve our health? Or heal damaged organs and get protected against damage from premature aging? Is this therapy available? Is it a complicated treatment? Is there any risk performing the procedure?
We can stronlgy say that all the above is true and possible, not as unlimited as we could dream, but true. There are cells that have the ability to duplicate constantly, almost on an unlimited way; these are the stem cells or progenitor cells. The Totipotent cells also have the ability of transforming into all different types of tissues that completes human body. These cells could only be find at an embryo, after the union of an egg and sperm to form a blastocyte, the resulting cells of the cellular duplication have these Totipotent properties until 8 weeks of gestation.
Although these cells are the ones that have the greatest ability to divide and differentiate into other tissues, therefore their use as medical therapy could bring great benefits, there are some risks in their use. Obtaining embryonic stem cells is prohibited in all countries, for ethical and moral reasons. Recently has been authorized the use of already existing embryos on tissue and infertility banks, but still is not allowed to obtain new embryos. On the US recently has been authorized the use of these embryos for treatments on patients with spinal cord injury.
When the human body has completed its growing process, some primitive cells with the ability to transform into other tissues remain inside of us, these cells are spread practically all over the body and almost in all tissues, they have the repair task in conjunction with other cells, growth factors, and hormonal stimulation in regeneration of tissues which will damage for any reason or simply by aging deterioration. These primitive cells replace constantly damaged cells, is the natural self-healing and self-repair methodology of the human body.
These remaining cells after the fetus is completely formed are called adult stem cells and they retain the ability to transform into different tissues, but not all of them, therefore are known as multipotent cells. The umbilical cord blood, fat, ovaries and bone marrow are important sources of this type of multipotent adult stem cells.
These adult stem cells are currently the most frequently used for treatments for several diseases. Although stem cells are useful for many diseases, we know they are not useful for all and also they are not for everyone. In other words, many conditions do not improve with stem cell treatment and there are patients that because of their age, health, and chronicity of their condition are not ideal candidates for these treatments.
The most common source of stem cells currently being used are the umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and fat. After the cells are obtained from any of its sources, they are prepared and infused into patients with different techniques and in different areas, they can be applied under the skin, directly into an organ (Heart, Liver, Intraspine, joints, etc) or by intravenous infusion.
When the infused cells are from the same patient, the procedure is called autologous, this type of engraftments or procedures have many advantages like, non-rejection, no graft vs. host disease reaction, does not transmit diseases and it is not necessary to medicate the body to suppress the immune system (responsible of our defense) to accept such engraftment.
When the infused cells are not from the same patient, but from other person (same species) is called homologous graft or homologous procedure. An example of an homologous procedure is the case of cells obtained from umbilical cord or placenta. These kinds of procedures have some risks since it could lead to a graft vs. host disease. The immunologic reaction causes cell destruction of the same cells just infused and could trigger an allergic anaphylactic reaction.
Cells used from other species such as pigs, goats, cattle, etc, are known as heterologous procedures and certainly this kind of grafts are the ones having the greatest risks and less chances of health improvement because of the big difference between the donor and the recipient tissue.
Autologous procedures are the ones currently being offered with the best results, and there are different techniques using these stem cells. They can be obtained from fat, peripheral blood or bone marrow; these stem cells can be separated, cultured and kept on cryopreservation stage at very low temperatures to be available when required.
About 10 years ago some health professionals began therapies, using stem cells obtained from bone marrow, for diseases with no treatment and therefore no cure. Now in Progencell we know the best source of adult stem cells is still bone marrow and we keep doing treatments using only autologous procedures. We concentrate on infusing live fresh stem cells, active, non-cultured, non-stored, non-frozen, we do our best trying not to damage the cells in order for them to retain their ability to regenerate, along with their growth factors and we only boost them with physical stimulation to gives them more resistance. We care to infuse appropriate quality of big quantities of stem cells, about 500 millions of cells with a 95% viability or greater.
The procedure is performed as an outpatient procedure, with minimal discomfort and does not require general anesthesia. After having treated more than 200 patients we can say that the procedure is completely safe, risks are minimal, and results may vary according to the infusion or injection site.
As mentioned above, these treatments are not magic or miraculous. They do not cure everything and neither is for everyone. In Progencell we have divided patients into 4 groups of medical conditions: ophthalmological, neurological, metabolical and immunological. Response to the treatment may vary considerably, so, for patients to get good results, it is necessary to have a healthy bone marrow (source of stem cells). This means, the bone marrow has to have an adequate stem cells production and growth factors productions to cause adequate tissue regeneration. Another important factor for best results is, chronicity of the disease. It will be very different outcome when treating patients with an older disease, that started many years ago, and has caused a lot of damage to the body than a disease that began one or two years ago and the conditions and physical reserves of patient are much better. This is why the results are not always the same, each patient is different; and remember we expect a biological response, not a pharmacological response.
The stem cells distributed in our tissues all over our body respond to the biochemical signals released by damaged tissues. These cells migrate to the local area where these signals are emitted, and they replace damaged cells. But sometimes, the number of stem cells naturally available is not enough to replace, repair and regenerate, important or big damaged tissue, then the disease exceeds the body’s natural ability to heal.
Today the existence of these multipotent stem cells is a proven fact, is also a proven fact their capability of tissue regeneration, therefore the value of these stem cells for treating many diseases. Actually today, they are being infused with great success and these treatments are proven to be totally safe.
Just imagine what would happen inside your body when millions of live stem cells would be infused, your own stem cells, ready to fulfill with their natural function of damaged tissue regeneration.
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Dr. Luis Romero Guerra | Progencell 2010-12-07 Articles/Press Releases