What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are primitive cells in our body serving as a reservoir, able to replenish itself and differentiate into a wide range of specialized cells, in order to replace damaged cells and regenerate tissue. They have innate intelligence and secrete bioactive molecules that recruit local cells to lower inflammation and assist in the healing process.
Every cell in our body can trace its origin to the ultimate stem cell – a fertilized egg. Each cell division moves the cells down a path to their final cell type such as cells of muscle, nerve, or liver. All along this journey cells make commitments that are typically irreversible. This implies that any tissue in our body may require stem cells for regeneration. Properly harnessed, stem cells have the potential to repair or reverse an incredibly broad range of health concerns.
Where are these Stem Cells?
Stem cells exist in varying forms in numerous places throughout the body, although with a tendency to decline in number and quality throughout our life cycle. Adult stem cells are most abundant in bone marrow, fat tissue, and blood.
Stem cells are especially abundant at birth, in umbilical cord and placenta, which is why many parents choose to privately store umbilical cord blood/tissue when their babies are born. Membranes from placenta have been used to treat burns and other wounds for over a century.
Adult Tissue as Stem Cell Source
More recently, stem cells from a patient’s own fat, bone marrow, and circulating blood have been used to treat a variety of common conditions. For example, in the case of joint problems that require replacement or repair of cartilage, concentrated and directed doses of one’s own stem cells have been shown to be more effective and long-lasting than widely practiced alternatives using PRP (platelet rich plasma) or cortisol injections.
Acquiring stem cells from an adult’s blood requires many sessions and expensive processing, to harvest a useful number of therapeutic cells. Using bone marrow or fat derived Stem Cells is possible however adult stem cells from a patient’s body are as old and as diseased as the patient. This affects their therapeutic potential and can lead to inconsistent treatment results.
Birth Tissue as Stem Cell Source
Tissues typically discarded at birth (ex. umbilical cord) are a rich source of stem cells that boast some unique properties that set them apart from adult stem cells. While adult stem cells need to be a match (much like blood transfusions) to avoid rejection by the recipient’s immune system, stem cells of umbilical cord and placental origin do not need to be matched. This is because the young cells present in birth tissues have not fully developed the surface proteins (“HLA markers”) found on the outer membranes of adult cells, and thus are able to “fly under the radar” of the recipient’s immune system. This immune-privileged status makes the transplant an easier process than harvesting the cells from the patient which carries surgical risks.
Stem cells of birth tissue origin have another unique advantage: these cells are young and have been shown in studies to be therapeutically more active. While we do not yet know all of the mechanisms by which stem cells promote healing, we do know that these cells produce cytokines and growth factors, and recruit local cells to perform work of repair and regeneration. When birth tissue stem cells are compared to adult stem cells, they demonstrate higher level of secretion of cytokines and growth factors, slower cellular aging, and stronger anti-inflammatory effects. Also, studies have shown that umbilical cord stem cells have greater neuroprotective and neurorestorative properties compared to adult bone marrow stem cells.
Yet, it may not simply be the cells that are exerting therapeutic benefits. Recent study out of Stanford University showed that umbilical cord blood contains an abundant supply of a valuable protein called TIMP-2, which has shown to improve memory and learning, through improving hippocampal function.
1. Amniotic Membrane
Amniotic membrane products have been rapidly advancing in quality and popularity in the last few years. They show greater long-term efficacy over PRP (platelet rich plasma) or cortisol injections. Using these products does not require matching, because while the chorionic (maternally facing) membrane presents HLA markers, the fetal-facing membrane (amnion) is immune-privileged and can be used in allogeneic applications (transplantation into a different individual).
2. Umbilical Cord
Umbilical cord tissue is a dense source of MSC’s, mainly from a gelatinous material surrounding the blood vessels of the cord, called Wharton’s jelly (WJ). MSC’s (mesenchymal stem cells) were shown to have the capacity to differentiate into bone, cartilage, fat, skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and even neurons, or cells of the kidney, liver and pancreas. MSC’s from umbilical cords are more primitive than MSC’s derived from more mature tissue sources, and have intermediate properties between embryonic and adult stem cells. They have anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, antimicrobial, and anti-tumorigenic properties. MSC’s from WJ may also be particularly helpful in the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions.
Umbilical cord blood contains abundant amounts of hematopoietic CD34+ stem cells, which for decades have been used to treat the same panel of conditions for which bone marrow transplants were used for. Hematopoietic stem cells also help with angiogenesis (generating blood vessels) thus help ensure blood supply to the repaired tissue. There is also evidence, that a more naïve progenitor cell is present exclusively in cord blood. Recently, a valuable protein called TIMP-2 was found to be abundant in the umbilical cord blood. TIMP-2 is thought to be a key compomenet to hippocampal brain health.
*All donated cords are the by-products of normal, healthy births. At the lab our human cell and tissue products are sourced from, each cord is carefully screened for sterility and infectious diseases under FDA guidelines and standards.
Advantages of Birth Tissue-Derived Products
Non-embryonic stem cells can be harvested from various sources including bone marrow, adipose tissue, blood, amniotic fluid and birth tissue (such as umbilical cord and placenta). Among these, birth tissue-derived cell products offer many advantages, including abundance of stem cells, youthfulness of cells, richness of cytokines and growth factors, easy harvesting, lack of need for HLA matching, excellent safety record, higher anti-inflammatory, and robust angiogenic potentials.
Although autologous stem cell transplantation (using a person’s own stem cells) is currently the most utilized form of stem cell therapy, as it avoids the risk of graft vs. host immune response, this method has significant drawbacks in the aging and chronically ill populations. Besides requiring invasive procedures to harvest the cells, in the older and chronically ill population, both the number and quality of stem cells have declined, limiting their regenerative capabilities.
Even among the young and healthy adult population, stem cells obtained from a person’s bone marrow or adipose tissue still produce less cytokines/growth factors, with lower anti-inflammatory potentials, lower rate of growth & differentiation, shorter telomeres (end sequences that protects the chromosomes), more rapid cellular aging, and less remaining generations of offsprings, when compared to the stem cells of birth tissue origin.
The AIM Clinic is offering umbilical cord derived Stem Cells to optimize health for patients suffering from wide variety of conditions. Our USA based, FDA compliant, sourced human cell and tissue products are sent to the clinic on dry ice. To schedule a free 15 minute phone consult with one of our providers to discuss any questions, please call 603-583-4603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.