Stem Cell Series #2: Myths and Misconceptions
Debunking myths and misconceptions.
1. TRUE OR FALSE? Stem cells only come from embryos.
False. Embryonic Stem cells can be obtained from embryos—this is true. However, embryos are not the only available source. In fact, adult stem cells can be found in plentiful amounts throughout an adult’s body from sources like muscle tissue, organs (including the heart, lungs, etc.), bone marrow and fat.
2. TRUE OR FALSE? Bone marrow is the best source of stem cells.
False. Bone marrow is ONE source of stem cells. A great deal of research has been dedicated to understanding this source of stem cells and their potential.
Bone marrow contains a number of different kinds of stem cells, one of which is called mesenchymal stem cells. This category of cell can be found in adipose (fat) tissue at nearly 2000 times the frequency of bone marrow.
Mesenchymal cells have the capability to become different types of tissues (blood vessels, muscle tissue, etc.) and are capable of communicating with other cells. In combination with other proteins, molecules and regenerative cells found in adipose tissue, they also have the ability to reduce inflammation, regenerate damaged tissue, and grow new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. Stem cells from adipose tissue are more accessible and abundant. They can be processed immediately and reintroduced into the body right away.
3. TRUE OR FALSE? Stem cell research and treatment is against the law in the US.
False. The FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine, but rather drugs and medical devices and which of these can be marketed in the US. Under federal law, cultured (grown) stem cell products are considered a drug, but are not illegal. Adult stem cells, however, are not cultured—rather, they exist in our bodies throughout our organs, blood, skin, teeth, fat, bone marrow, and other places.
4. TRUE OR FALSE? Stem cell therapy is unproven.
False. Clinical research trials have demonstrated a very high safety profile as well as measurable improvements in several areas of health concerns.
5. TRUE OR FALSE? There is a risk of “rejection” with stem cell therapy. (The body won’t accept the cells.)
False. When a patient’s stem cells are derived from his own body (such as fat tissue), there is no risk of rejection. In fact, studies thus far have indicated no safety issues with fat-derived autologous (from self) stem cells. Because they are your own cells, the risk of rejection is eliminated.
6. TRUE OR FALSE? Americans Need to Travel Abroad for Stem Cell Treatments
False. Stem cell therapy regulations differ greatly by country. The FDA has provided guidelines defining the use of human stem cells in the US. Currently, Americans do have excellent access to stem cell treatments for a range of conditions.
7. TRUE OR FALSE? Stem Cell Therapy Is As Difficult A Recovery for Patients As Invasive Surgery
False. Stem cell therapy for joint pain is an excellent example of the ease with which patients can potentially improve pain and mobility while avoiding an invasive joint replacement surgery. The stem cell procedure is performed in an outpatient setting. Patients typically return to work within a day and they resume physical activity much faster than after invasive surgery. The entire procedure takes 3-4 hours and no general anesthesia is used. Most patients do not require post-operative pain medication.