Stem cell Treatment

Stem Cells
IGTC offers Image Guided Stem Cell treatment. Stem Cells are harvested and transplanted precisely into the patient's body through image guided non surgical procedures. 

What are Stem Cells? 

In simplistic terms, stem cells are the basic cells for the formation, repair and regeneration of the human body. Throughout our lives, stem cells repair and regenerate damaged tissue. There are different types of stem cells with sometimes confusing use of the phrase ' stem cells'. 'Pluripotent' stem cells form any tissue in the body. 'Multipotent' stem cells on the other hand are restricted in their ability to regenerate into particular tissues. 

There are three major types of Stem Cells: Embryonic, Non-embryonic and induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS). Embryonic stem cells are derived from the developing embryo. They are pluripotent stem cells and the subject of major ethical concerns. In contrast, Non-embryonic stem cells (NESCs) do not attract ethical issues as a general rule and are multi potent stem cells. More recently artificial genetic programming of certain adult cells has resulted in these cells to acquire 'pluripotent' capacity - these are induced Pluripotent stem cells (iPS). For example, certain cells from human skin have been subject to such genetic reprogramming that has altered the characteristics of these cells resulting in these cells acquiring a 'Pluripotent' capacity. There are some concerns of carcinogenic potential with such programming of iPS. 

There are several sources of Non Embryonic Stem Cells including umbilical cord blood, third molar, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, adipocytes (fat cells) etc. Depending on the source of NESCs there may be ethical, medical and safety concerns. When human tissue or cells are used from one's own body this is termed 'Autologous'. For example, Autologous Stem Cells simply means using ones own stem cells. 

Autologous stem cells or mesenchymal stem cells have been of interest in orthopaedic medicine, tendon disorders and a number of degenerative medical conditions, eg: in the non surgical treatment of osteoarthritis, meniscal tears, tendon tears, bursitis etc in the past few years. Such an approach has also been used in treating neuropathic pain or neuralgia. Given the right chemical environment these stem cells can form cartilage, muscle, bone, tendon and fat cells and reduce inflammation. 

Mesenchymal stem cells may offer an excellent alternative in the treatment of cartilage disorders due to their extensive proliferation and differentiation potential. In simple terms this means that a few stem cells may form a large colony of cartilage cells or tendons etc. However this requires the correct chemical microenvironment that enables gene and protein expression for the controlled formation of new tissue. The use of autologous mesenchymal stem cells and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) aims to achieve this end result. There are various preparations of PRP with different methods of delivery of treatment in the market place. Each of these products have their advantages and disadvantages. One preparation that works for a particular part may not necessarily work for another in the same person. Although the use of stem cells and PRP has had a dramatic rise in clinical practice, there is a relative void in the availability of high level studies. There are notable exceptions eg: PRP in lateral epicondylitis is well established. There are numerous ongoing trials on stem cells and PRP for the treatment of a number of medical conditions at present. 

Regenerative techniques allow regulation of a healing environment that is previously unheard of. This means that damaged tissues can now be treated by interventional radiological techniques using a chemical cocktail from the patients own cells and growth factors. This allows optimal recovery with minimal damage by breaking the cycle of perpetual uncontrolled inflammation and progressive damage.

Studies have shown that stem cells have a role in the treatment of diseases that were previously considered untreatable. Whilst there is hope with this new treatment option, it is important to bear in mind that each individual is different and the outcome is variable depending on the individual and the condition. 

Stem cells do not offer a medical promise. But what they do offer is an option for many conditions with an unmet medical need. 

This new treatment is quite exciting. However, there is a lot that we do not know. For the time being what we do know is that small studies and clinical experience have shown benefit with the use of mesenchymal stem cells and PRP. This may help patients with degenerative, inflammatory, disabling and painful conditions that were considered untreatable or only treatable by complex surgery with post surgical complications. 

Prior to considering stem cell treatment you should educate yourself about the different types of stem cells, obtain medical advise, engage your GP in the process, obtain as much information as possible from various credible sources on costs, safety, quality of available evidence, short versus long term outcome, known and unknown risks etc, other traditional / conventional options and then make an informed choice.