Stem Cell Series #1: What Are They?
What are stem cells?
A stem cell is basically any cell that can replicate and differentiate. This means the cell can not only multiply, but it can turn into different types of tissues. There are different kinds of stem cells. Up until now, medicine was predominantly aimed at keeping our cells healthy and alive through diet, exercise, medications to eradicate disease, or supplements to help our cells stay healthy, but now, going forward, we have the opportunity to replace injured or dying cells with our own DNA coded stem cells. This may be a NEW era in medicine, but it really reflects perhaps the OLDEST form of intervention. Before we had any kind of medical intervention we had to rely on our body’s natural cell defense to keep us healthy. We now have the ability to unlock and harvest huge quantities of these repair cells for immediate use.
Aren't stem cells unethical?
Most people are familiar with or have heard the term “embryonic stem cell.” These are cells from the embryonic stage that have yet to differentiate – as such, they can change into any body part at all. These are then called “pluripotential” cells. Because they are taken from unborn or unwanted embryos, there has been considerable controversy surrounding their use. We strongly do not believe in or use these type of cells at Sparrow. Also, while they have been used in some areas of medicine – particularly, outside the United States – they have also been associated with occasional tumor (teratoma) formations.
So what kind of stem cells does Sparrow use?
We use what is called the “adult stem cell.” This is a stem cell that already resides in one’s body within different tissues. In recent times, much work has been done isolating bone-marrow derived stem cells. These are also known as “mesenchymal stem cells” because they come from the mesodermal section of your body. They can differentiate into bone and cartilage, and probably all other mesodermal elements, such as fat, connective tissue, blood vessels, muscle and nerve tissue. Bone marrow stem cells can be extracted and because they are low in numbers, they are usually cultured in order to multiply their numbers for future use. As it turns out, fat is also loaded with mesenchymal stem cells. In fact, it has hundreds if not thousands of times more stem cells compared to bone marrow. Today, we actually have tools that allow us to separate the stem cells from fat. Because most people have adequate fat supplies and the numbers of stem cells are so great, there is no need to culture the cells over a period of days and they can be used right away.
Should I get stem cells from just anywhere?
For those that for whatever reason choose not to receive stem cell therapy with Sparrow, we advise caution. Here are some of the many reasons we encourage individuals looking into stem cell therapy to exercise caution and ask lots of questions about what they are receiving.
- add synthetics to the cells which could yield adverse reactions
- add animal cells or materials from animals such as pork
- some inject dead cells into the body
- dead cells contain a weak growth factor leaving patients with a bill equal to regular stem cell therapy but without as great of benefits
- some claim to offer "stem cell therapy", but use PRP, dead cells, amniotic, or some other source instead
- some use cells from amniotic fluid
- outside of the ethical issues, a 2012 study examining the theory that Amniotic stem cells derived from donated amniotic fluid could be stored in banks, shipped to doctors and researchers, and used for various therapies, study author Dr. Pascale Guillot of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College of London described amniotic stem cells this way: “Amniotic fluid stem cells are intermediate between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They have some potential to develop into different cell types but they are not pluripotent.”
- some genetically modify the cells
For the best outcome, we suggest yielding your own cells and using them how they are. After all, it is your body's natural defense mechanism and it was designed to heal itself.