Stem cell technology, part one.

Stem cell ads are popping up everywhere. If you know anyone that has had reason to see a doctor specializing in orthopedic or regenerative medicine then you may have heard about something called PRP. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and we had to get to the bottom of it. We’ve learned a lot and can’t wait to share it with you! Read on!

We have to clear something up right from the start. Although many doctors and the media throw around the term embryonic when discussing stem cells, this is NOT, nor will it ever be what the general population receives as a treatment at a doctor’s office visit.

Here is where the confusion lies – or better yet the misleading marketing.

Definition of embryonic

1: of or relating to an embryo

2: being in an early stage of development : incipient, rudimentary, an embryonic plan

This definition, taken right from Merriam-Webster, clearly shows us 2 meanings. In the grey area of marketing and misdirection, a doctor, website, or news article will use the word embryonic knowing full well they mean “early stage development”. Despite this, they are banking on the fact that many consumers will pass judgment, pro or con, for stem cells based on aligning the term embryonic with that as taken from a fertilized egg or “embryo”.

Stem cells harvested from “embryos” are called pluripotent and are not legal or ethical to harvest. So where are these “embryonic” stem cells being harvested from that you read about in the paper, or see advertised at your doctor’s office? Most often – you!

Wait. Do you have embryonic stem cells in you? Well, since we do continue to produce “new” cells on a daily basis that are sent to repair the everyday damage that occurs to our bodies, the answer is yes. However, after about age 11, the health and viability of our own stem cells rapidly declines – it’s called aging.

Most common stem cell treatments

Currently most stem cell clinics and doctors in the US use a combination of one or more of the following: bone marrow (your own) harvested by a needle into your thigh or hip bone, adipose fat (your own), blood draw (your own) and amniotic fluid (donor). These are mixed together in a cocktail of PRP (Protein Rich Plasma), which many doctors and patients just lump into one explanation – “I’m having PRP done”, or “my doctor recommends PRP”.

Amniotic confusion

The amniotic fluid also adds to the “embryo” confusion. Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds a fetus within a woman’s amniotic sac during pregnancy. It acts as a cushion for the fetus and an exchange liquid for nutrients and water. During childbirth this fluid, or “waters”, is generally discarded as waste along with the placenta and umbilical cord.

This PRP stem cell technology has the right idea, but interestingly enough, amniotic fluid doesn’t not contain much in the way of stem cells. It does contain growth factors and, while these can provide additional benefits when mixed with the patient’s own blood, or marrow, this is an expensive, messy, time consuming, and somewhat painful process.

The success rate is decent at 85% but that statistic will fluctuate up or down depending on what products and processes are used, and the health of the patient. Keep in mind this statistic also doesn’t clarify if it is based on amount of tissue regeneration, pain relief, range of motion or renewed use of damaged tissue.

Good, better, best.

Blood, bone, amniotic, and umbilical cord are all termed multi-potent. Splitting these categories up even further – if it comes from you (bone, blood, fat) it is called autologous. If it comes from another like amnion or umbilical cord it is termed homologous.

Using your own cells may give you good results, mixing it with amniotic cells may give you better results, but what will give you the best results? In our research we found stem cell “products” are much like other supplement products we investigate and educate about all of the time. Quality, purity, and efficacy, as well as knowing the exact source of the raw materials, are the determining factors of defining high quality in both of these industries.

The health sciences are always evolving. For example: when it comes to supplements, you either keep buying the drug store brand of herbs and vitamins, or you buy the best of the best from companies that specialize, grow, evolve, and lead the way in research and development. These kinds of companies also always seem to have a level of integrity far beyond their peers.

First do no harm

In medicine the Hippocratic Oath states: first do no harm. Withdrawing bone marrow from your hip or thigh requires anesthetic, possibly followed by pain killers, to withdraw stem cells that are as old as you, just to inject them back in, YET a process exists that avoids all of that and is more effective and follows the Hippocratic Oath! What would YOUR choice be?

You may have noticed we keep mentioning umbilical cord. Guess what? This is where the stem cell magic is! Umbilical cord blood!

To be continued……. in part two of this post.

Re-read this one first, and stay tuned for more information that will hopefully help you understand your choices when it comes to utilizing stem cell technology.

Photo credit: wide-wallpapers.net

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