Stem Cells: A New “Fountain of Youth?” Choosing the Right Therapy
Stem cells. There’s probably few topics hotter in medicine right now. These are our cells that haven’t yet differentiated into specific tissues such as heart, lung, brain, bone, etc. They’re like kids that haven’t decided what they want to be when they grow up. This makes them very powerful as they can be called upon in times of need to repair or become other tissues that have been injured or destroyed.
Because of many claims made about results of stem cell treatments, both real and exaggerated, patient interest is at an all-time high and growing. So, if the medical community is divided, how can the average person know if this is a therapy worth exploring? Medical experts are awash with a multitude of answers, but solid science is providing us with some definite answers, so here are some things to bear in mind.
Stem cells are not a “cure all” – yet. Unfortunately, there are some overzealous, well-meaning practitioners, who will tell you that stem cells can cure everything but death and taxes, and they’re still working on death. It’s just not true. While stem cells have incredible potential to correct and heal many injuries and ailments, they don’t cure everything, we’re just beginning to learn how they work.
Not all stem cells are equal. There are many different sources of stem cells, which can be sourced from your own fat or your bone marrow, or obtained from umbilical cords or cord blood that has been donated from viable, healthy full-term pregnancies. There are various benefits some stem cells carry over others, and opinions vary on which are most useful for different applications. Most people do agree, however, that younger stem cells are “better”, because they secrete more chemical messages than older stem cells.
Some treatments called stem cells actually are not. Some call treatments stem cell therapy when they’re really just dealing with “growth factors”. Some still advertise PRP (platelet rich plasma) or placental tissue as stem cells, but they’re not. They release a significant number of growth factors, but they aren’t stem cells nor can they do the breadth of things that stem cells can do. The exception to this is exosomes, which are micro-encapsulated messengers that the stem cells use to actually do their work. Exosomes are a very exciting new product because they can do all the work that stem cells do without even having to have the stem cells present.
The bottom line is, this is an exciting field of medicine in an early stage of development with incredible potential to come. Both stem cells and exosomes are providing very positive outcomes in the treatment of pain, joint degradation, auto-immune processes, and many other conditions of aging and deterioration. If you are interested, talk to your doctor – your physician will discuss with you both the benefits and the limitations of this emerging therapy.