Are All Stem Cells Equal? - TLC The Littleton Clinic

Are All Stem Cells Equal?

A quick scroll through your social media feed will display several ads for stem cell therapy. However, it is important to know that not all stem cell therapy is the same. Sure, methods and providers differ, but a key predictor in efficacy of stem cell therapy is the type of stem cells used. How do you make sure you are receiving the best treatment for your money?  

Amniotic stem cells are perhaps the most commonly advertised form of treatment. It is important to note that these are not embryonic stem cells, which are currently banned from experimentation in the US. Instead, these are adult (fully grown) stem cells harvested from either the amniotic tissue or umbilical cord blood during a normal birth. Lots of helpful growth factors are also collected with the stem cells.  

However, the FDA requires these stem cells to be heavily cleaned, screened, and processed before they reach you. After they are harvested, these stem cells are cryopreserved (freeze dried). This cleans them and preserves the stem cells for shipment, but it also kills the stem cells entirely. No living tissue is left after this process. And while there is evidence that some of the growth factors remain, it is misleading to consider these types of injections to be “stem cell” therapy.  

Adipose stem cells are derived from fat cells around the hip bones. These stem cells are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which stimulate wound healing, help inflammation, and attract immune cells. The adipose stem cell harvesting procedure is essentially liposuction. Depending on the individual, large numbers of MSCs can be obtained through this procedure. Research has shown that adipose stem cells provide the highest quantity of live stem cells of any treatment available, but that does not necessarily make them the most effective. 

Of the available stem cell types, bone-marrow aspiration concentrate (BMAC) stem cells have consistently been proven to be the most effective. Because of this, TLC uses exclusively this type of stem cells. This type of stem cell procedure requires more training because they are harder to obtain. BMAC is harvested from the iliac crest, your hip bones, rather than an outside source. This eliminates the risk of rejection of the materials because they are your own cells! Some people are concerned about the possibility of pain during the procedure. We use local anesthesia to numb the area, minimizing pain. Patients consistently report that this is one of the less painful parts of the procedure.  

BMAC is also comprised of mesenchymal stem cells (MCSs), and has the same effects as adipose stem cells. However, because the bone marrow is responsible for creating blood, BMAC also promotes blood vessel formation. This increases circulation to the injection site, improving outcomes. 

At TLC, our research has led us to believe strongly that BMAC is the best source of stem cell treatment currently available. Hopefully, reading this has helped you understand the differences between types of stem cells so you can decide for yourself which is best! We want you to feel confident about the type of treatment you receive, so please call with any questions you have.  

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