Frequently Asked Questions
Stem Cell Therapy FAQS
Stem cell therapy is on the leading edge of the emerging field known as regenerative medicine. Using sophisticated biogenics (products created from your own body), instead of relying on more traditional treatments such as steroids, NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs), surgery, and other pharmaceuticals (which can cause unwanted side effects), we focus on harnessing the natural healing power of the stem cells retrieved from your own body.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells capable of both integration and multiplication, which means that these cells not only divide and multiply in number, but also differentiate into specialized cells and tissues. With the remarkable versatility stem cells possess, the field of medicine -- and, more specifically, the field of regenerative medicine -- has developed and continues to explore new ways to utilize stem cells to address the health issues caused by diseased or damaged tissues.
Stem cells carry a rather broad definition, as there are many different types of stem cells currently being used or researched within the medical field. Outside of the field of medicine, the term “stem cell” is most often associated with embryonic stem cells, mainly due to the robust and ongoing public debate concerning the complicated moral and ethical issues surrounding the use of such cells.
There are many different types of stem cells, however, including adult or mesenchymal stem cells, which are derived from bone marrow and adipose tissue (more commonly referred to as fat). While there is ample reason for the fascination -- as well as the controversy -- associated with the “pluri-potential” embryonic stem cells capable of transforming into any body part, the mesenchymal stem cells found in bone marrow and fatty tissue are also quite versatile and can differentiate into cartilage and bone. There is a high likelihood that these stem cells also possess the ability to differentiate into other mesodermal elements that include blood vessels, connective tissue, fat, and nerve tissue.
No. We only retrieve and use adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These stem cells are fully capable of differentiation into functioning cartilage, bone, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, as well as certain organs.
No. Only your own adult mesenchymal stem cells can be used. There is no chance of receiving anyone else’s stem cells, as they are harvested and reinserted immediately. There is no risk of outside contamination or rejection from DNA or stem cells from other sources.
The process used to extract stem cells differs based on the type of stem cell. Bone marrow stem cells, for example, require an extraction method distinct from the method required to extract adipose stem cells. Bone marrow extraction tends to cause discomfort for the patient and yields far fewer stem cells than the liposuction process used to extract adipose stem cells, with bone marrow yielding anywhere from 5,000 to 60,000 stem cells compared to the 10 to 500 million stem cells secured through a single treatment of liposuction.
Adipose stem cells are usually taken from the patient’s abdomen while under a local anesthetic. The extraction process is brief, often lasting no more than 20 minutes and yielding plenty of stem cells for the purpose of treatment. In the case of autologous stem cell extractions, it is possible that the extraction is done via a closed system to ensure sterile conditions. Treatments using these kind of systems are brief, requiring as little as 90 minutes to extract and then reinsert the patient’s autologous stem cells.
As with any medical procedure or treatment, there is always some amount of risk. However, the risk for stem cell therapy is considered extremely low, as we use adult stem cells harvested from the patient’s own body and then returned during the same procedure, without any manipulation of the cells. This is done in a sterile, closed loop that protects the cells from outside contact with the environment and any bacteria or organisms that might contaminate the cells. This way, the cells are a perfect match with little to no chance of rejection or infection.
Stem cell therapy is an exciting field with more and more treatments being developed. Stem cell therapies may hold the key to the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, baldness, deafness, blindness, heart attacks, missing teeth, spinal cord injuries, learning disorders, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and other autoimmune disorders. While there is much research required, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Currently, the disease or condition you are seeking treatment for will need to be evaluated by a trained specialist who can determine if you are a good candidate for stem cell therapy. And while the procedure is minimally invasive, you will still need to be cleared for any stem cell treatment you undergo. As a patient centered practice, we focus on informed patient care and will provide you with ample information to help you make an informed decision regarding your own care.
Stem cells are like building blocks that can be encouraged to form into new, healthy tissues to replace diseased or injured cells, such as growing new knee cartilage, or helping to speed healing in various areas of the body. Normally, adult stem cells are present, but not activated. Known as progenitor cells, adult stem cells remain dormant until required. Presently, it is not clear if the cells change into the necessary type of cell or if they simply start and or encourage the healing cascade, but we do know that they carry reparative capabilities that can be used to promote healing at a cellular level.
Broadly speaking, there are two basic kinds of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. As the name implies, embryonic stem cells come from embryos. These kinds of cells are known as pluri-potential, meaning that they can become anything required to create a human body. Embryonic stem cells are taken from unwanted embryos, and as such, are highly controversial. Embryonic stem cell use is highly regulated and has also been associated with certain kinds of tumor formation.
Adult stem cells, on the other hand, come from adults. Adult stem cells are harder to isolate, but still retain many (but not all) of their undifferentiated properties, allowing them to become nerve, skin, bone, cartilage and other tissues as needed, depending on the specific type of tissue they are recovered from. Bone marrow adult stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells), for instance, come from the mesodermal sections of the human body and can form into cartilage and bone.
Evidence suggests that they are also capable of differentiating into other tissues like connective tissues (ligaments, muscle, tendons), blood vessels, fatty tissues, nerve and blood vessels. Bone marrow stem cells are not as prevalent in the body and usually need to be cultured (encouraged to multiply in the lab) so that there are enough to work with.
Fortunately, human fat cells also have mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which can be more easily harvested and separated from fat cells for use. Because the ratio of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is over a thousand times greater in fat cells than bone marrow, these usually do not need to be cultured and can be obtained from fatty deposits in the patient’s body.
Adipose stem cells are a type of mesenchymal, or adult stem cell, which, unlike embryonic stem cells, are derived from the mesodermal section of an adult. Adult stem cells possess the ability to differentiate into bone as well as cartilage, and it is believed that these cells can also be used to create blood vessels, connective tissue, fat, and nerve tissue. Due to this level of versatility, adult stem cells can be utilized in the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions associated with disease or degenerative illness.
Adult stem cells can be derived from bone marrow as well as adipose (fat) tissue, with adipose stem cells being the adult stem cells derived from the latter mesodermal element. Adipose and bone marrow stem cells are equally versatile, but bone marrow stem cells must be cultured and multiplied to ensure the availability of the appropriate number of stem cells necessary for the purpose of the treatment in question.
Adipose stem cells, on the other hand, do not usually require the culturing process necessitated by the relatively low number of stem cells derived from bone marrow. Adipose stem cells are available in large numbers in adipose tissue, and most adults possess fat supplies that are more than adequate for the purpose of treatment involving the use of stem cells.
Adult stem cells, including both adipose stem cells and bone marrow stem cells, are considered “progenitor cells,” which lie dormant until injured or otherwise damaged tissue necessitates the healing processes performed by stem cells.
While mesenchymal (adult) stem cells are considered “progenitor cells,” embryonic or umbilical stem cells are considered “pluri-potential cells.” Pluri-potential cells have not yet differentiated and, since they are taken from the embryonic state of development, still possess the ability to transform into any body part. Given the versatility possessed by embryonic or umbilical stem cells, the potential medical applications of these types of stem cell are almost limitless.
Of course, the use of embryonic or umbilical stem cells has provoked a great deal of controversy and debate, primarily due to the fact that, unlike adult stem cells, these cells are derived from unborn embryos. Embryonic or umbilical stem cells also undergo a process of gamma radiation, which means these types of stem cell are not living cells.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the use of embryonic or umbilical stem cells has been occasionally linked to the formation of tumors. Due to the relatively limited use of these types of stem cell, additional research is required to determine if there is indeed a causal link with tumor growth.
There are several distinct methods through which stem cells can be collected before being deployed during the treatment process, and these methods might involve the use of either homologous or autologous stem cells. Homologous stem cells are stem cells collected from a source other than the patient undergoing treatment, while autologous stem cells are harvested directly from the patient. Stem cells taken from a matching donor would thus be considered homologous. Conversely, stem cells harvested from and redeployed in the same patient would be considered autologous.
National Stem Cell Centers has a designated sterile treatment facility where abdominal fat can be harvested under strictly controlled conditions with sophisticated and specialized equipment. We require less than 100cc of fat to recover stem cells. Patients receive a local anesthetic during the procedure and any postoperative discomfort is usually minimal, with minimal restrictions on daily activities.
None. We make no claims as to the efficacy, as our goal is to advance cell-based medicine and make it available for patients. For those patients who are interested, we provide ongoing data under approved Institutional Review Board (IRB) validated studies, and we follow stem cell treatment patients over the course of their lifetime in order to gather significant scientific data concerning stem cell treatments and degenerative diseases.
While we are very aware of anecdotal stories about marked improvement in various conditions, we make no claims about our stem cell treatments. Additionally, we have submitted preliminary safety data to the FDA as part of an approval application. (Our submissions are currently under consideration.)
Please keep in mind that these are your own stem cells, used only in your own body. We believe that rigorous statistical analysis of our findings will support our confidence that the treatments are both significant and effective.
Still, these are your own cells and not “medicines” for sale. They are only being used in your own body. Most likely, no claim needs to be made; rather a statistical analysis of our findings would suffice to suggest whether treatments are truly and significantly effective.
No. However, National Stem Cell Centers procedures fall under the category of physician’s practice of medicine, in which the doctor and the patient are able to consider their chosen course of treatment. Our affiliated physicians follow all relevant FDA guidelines concerning the manipulation and treatment of a patient’s own body tissues. Furthermore, they do not manipulate or alter the cells after retrieving them, and they are re-inserted directly into the patient who provided them.
No. Only certain medical conditions are currently being treated by the doctors affiliated with National Stem Cell Centers. All patients must be deemed as medically stable in order to undergo stem cell treatment. Additionally, we focus only on conditions that we believe may be beneficial to the patient. Some medical conditions may not be appropriate for stem cell treatment. However, stem cell treatment is used for a broad spectrum of conditions and disorders, particularly in pain management.
Yes. Patients who have uncontrolled cancer are excluded. Additionally, patients with active infections must undergo treatment for the infection prior to any procedure. Patients with bleeding disorders, or those taking certain blood thinning medications will require special consideration, as do severely ill patients, before being considered for stem cell therapy treatment.
Teratomas (a form of tumor) are extremely rare, usually benign, and related to embryonic cells, not the adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that we utilize in our stem cell treatments. There is no evidence that adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) cause cancer.
National Stem Cell Centers does not offer stem cell therapies for patients with cancer.
Stem cell therapies are being used to treat a wide variety of conditions and disorders including: neck and back pain, knee pain, joint pain, hip pain, erectile dysfunction (ED), autoimmune diseases, alopecia (hair loss), low sex drive, facelifts, osteoarthritis, heart and lung related disorders, certain neurological conditions, and other conditions as approved by the physicians affiliated with National Stem Cell Centers.
Stem cells are harvested from fat using an advanced mini-lipoharvesting process that is performed while the patient is under a local anesthetic. We employ a tiny (2 mm) puncture to administer the anesthetic. Patients can save a portion of the fat for future stem cell harvests by informing the surgeon of their desire to retain excess fat supplies. The procedure itself is very brief; patients usually report only minimal discomfort and disruption to normal activities is also minimal.
Stem cells can be stored in a cryogenic state (frozen) for an indefinite period of time (Frozen cells can remain viable for many decades). You can also make arrangements to donate your frozen and safely stored stem cells to family members, for scientific studies, or to other people who might benefit from stem cell therapy, but may not be able to undergo stem cell harvesting procedures themselves. All tissues undergo testing to eradicate the chance of spreading communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis.
Patients choose the physicians affiliated with National Stem Cell Centers for a number of reasons including but not limited to:
- Board Certified Surgeons
- Surgeons who are experienced and skilled with virtually painless fat extraction to harvest high quality stem cells
- Affordable prices
- Stem cell procedures are all we do and we do it well.
Regenerative medicine is a field of medicine in which normal function is either established or restored through the replacement or regeneration of human tissue, cells, or organs. This rapidly advancing field of medicine addresses functional issues stemming from congenital defects as well as acute or cumulative damage to the tissue, cells, or organs in question.
The field of regenerative medicine features elements originating from a variety of subject areas, including, but not limited to, biochemistry, biomechanics, cell transplantation, nanotechnology, stem cell biology, and tissue engineering. Regenerative medicine draws on each of these elements to develop processes for the creation of living tissues capable of restoring lost function and stimulating the healing process.
In essence, regenerative medicine stimulates healing from within, mainly through the activation of the body’s natural cellular resources. While there are a number of therapies that might be categorized as a regenerative therapy, stem cell therapies are believed to hold the key to activating the healing process at the cellular level to address issues associated with blood vessels, bones, muscles, nerves, and tendons.
The general concepts and practices associated with this field of medicine predate the coining of its name, which is widely attributed to William Haseltine in 1999 but first appeared in a paper written by Leland Kaiser seven years earlier. Even though the term is a relatively new one, the concept of regenerative medicine can be traced back to a book -- The Culture of New Organs -- written in 1938 by Alexis Carrell and Charles Lindberg. It was the work of Carrell and Lindberg that ultimately served as the foundation for the artificial heart.
In the 1950s, organ transplantation became a reality, but it was not until the 1980s that cyclosporine reduced the risk of rejection to such a degree that transplantation became a viable life-saving treatment option. It was around this same time that stem cells were discovered in human cord blood, and, in 1999, the first lab-grown organ -- an artificial bladder -- was implanted into a patient.
At least in a nominal sense, yes, regenerative medicine is considered a specialty within the field of medicine. It is a new and rapidly progressing medical specialty revolving around the utilization of stem cells for the purpose of healing. With the versatility of stem cells, the potential applications of regenerative medicine are virtually limitless. It is primarily due to this fact that there is so much interest in this field of medicine, as stem cell therapies might be the key to addressing any number of conditions that are currently considered untreatable.
As the field continues to evolve and advance, however, it will increasingly rely on a multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. Such an approach is not easily confined to a single medical specialty, particularly one that already encompasses several focus areas that include cell biology, clinical medicine, and engineering.
The Society of Regenerative Medicine is an organization aiming to serve as the “One Voice of Regenerative Medicine.” The organization and its advisory board work to educate members by sharing the most recent developments in research and practice management as well as the latest techniques being utilized in the field. It accomplishes its educational goals through the use of workshops and webinars as well as through its collaborative efforts with experienced medical practitioners from any and all relevant fields.
Emphasizing evidence-based methods in regenerative medicine, the organization’s faculty is made up of expert researchers, physicians, and scientists from all over the world, all of whom specialize in regenerative medicine, anti-aging, orthopedics, and aesthetics. In order to ensure its members benefit from the educational material it shares, the organization only distributes informational content after it has been reviewed and approved by the Society of Regenerative Medicine’s Advisory Board.
Yes, physicians can specialize in regenerative medicine and recognize the many ways in which stem cell therapies can be applied to treat all manner of conditions, including pain, chronic inflammation, orthopedic diseases, nerve conditions, urological disorders, autoimmune disorders, and heart and lung diseases, and. Since a wide range of conditions are treated through the use of stem cell therapies, the physicians do not just specialize in regenerative medicine; they also specialize in treating the specific condition in question, including each of the following medical specialties:
- Ear, Nose, and Throat
- Functional Medicine
- Internal Medicine
- Sports Medicine
The wide variety of medical specialties represented in practitioners of regenerative medicine underscores the versatility of stem cell therapies while also showcasing the multidisciplinary approach unique to this rapidly advancing medical field.
Medical issues can be treated with any number of tools, such as the medications that limit the effects of a disease to such a degree that the body is able to repair itself through normal healing processes. In the field of regenerative medicine, hormone replacement therapies strengthen and work in conjunction with the immune system in order to repair the tissues damaged or otherwise injured because of an existing disease or condition. As more and more research becomes available, treatment for degenerative diseases will increasingly rely on identifying the genetic defects responsible for the patient’s condition.
Of course, stem cell therapies hold a great deal of promise in the treatment of any number of medical conditions. Due to a system of molecules called cytokines (these protein-signaling molecules are often referred to as “growth factors” as well), stem cells possess incredible versatility. The use of cytokines in conjunction with stem cells is one of the most rapidly evolving areas of regenerative medicine, and the continued development of these tools will play a significant role in the future of the regenerative medical field.
Although the field of regenerative medicine has come a long way and holds a great deal of promise for the future, the field faces a number of challenges before stem cell therapies are able to achieve their full medical potential. Research is currently underway to develop treatment methodologies using stem cells to address issues stemming from immune and musculoskeletal abnormalities as well as cardiac disease, just for the sake of example.
The future of regenerative medicine is also dependent on identifying a source of stem cells that can be easily isolated and grown in a lab setting. The mesenchymal stem cells found in adipose tissue hold a great deal of promise in this regard, and researchers are already looking into new ways to reduce the likelihood of rejection and ensure the delivery of the cells to the correct location in the body.
Call (646) 448-0427 (New York) or (516) 403-1457 (Long Island) today to find out if stem cell therapies are right for you. National Stem Cell Centers also has locations in Southampton NY, New Jersey, Dallas and Houston in Texas, and Atlanta GA.
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