13 Myths About Stem Cell Therapy
As stem cell therapy is used and research continues, this subject can be a bit confusing. Here are a few common stem cell myths:
1. Stem cells only come from embryos.
Embryonic Stem cells can be obtained from embryos—this is true. However, embryos are not the only available source. In fact, adult stem cells can be found in plentiful amounts throughout an adult’s body from sources like muscle tissue, organs (including the heart, lungs, etc.), bone marrow and fat.
2. Bone marrow is the best source of stem cells.
Bone marrow is ONE source of stem cells. Bone marrow stem cells have been studied for many years and, for several decades, have been used to treat certain types of cancer.
Bone marrow contains a number of different kinds of stem cells, one of which is called mesenchymal stem cells. This category of cell can be found in adipose (fat) tissue at nearly 2000 times the frequency of bone marrow.
3. Stem cell research and treatment is illegal in the US.
The FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine, but rather drugs and medical devices and which can be sold in the US. Under federal law, cultured (grown) stem cell products are considered a drug, but are not illegal. Adult stem cells, however, are not cultured—rather, they exist in our bodies throughout our organs, blood, skin, teeth, fat, bone marrow, and other places.
4. Stem cell therapy is unproven.
Smaller-scale clinical research trials have demonstrated very high safety and measurable improvements in heart function, even after 24 months following the trials.
5. There is a risk of “rejection” with stem cell therapy.
When stem cells are taken from your own body there is no risk of rejection. Because they are your own cells, the risk of rejection is eliminated.
6. Stem cell therapy for heart disease is an alternative to bypass surgery and/or stents.
Not at this time. Modern medicine has many valuable treatment options for those suffering from heart disease conditions, such as angina and coronary artery disease.
Procedures focusing on improving blood flow in the large coronary arteries which lie on the outside of the heart (such as coronary artery bypass grafting and stent placement) have provided relief of symptoms for millions of patients.
7. Stem cell therapy cures heart disease.
Stem cell therapy is not (yet) a cure for heart disease. However, the process of injecting the heart with a patient’s own stem cells can offer restorative benefits, including:
- Improve blood flow in the heart
- Enhance intake and use of oxygen
- Improve the ability to perform physical activity
8. Stem Cells Need to Be Banked at Birth to Allow for Later Treatments
Umbilical cord blood can be preserved for the future benefit of the child. This type of stem cell technique is safe, it’s becoming commonplace to store the cells, but there are currently few ways to utilize these cells beyond compassionate-care cases.
9. Stem Cell Therapy Is As Difficult A Recovery for Patients As Invasive Surgery
The stem cell procedure is performed in an outpatient setting. Patients typically return to work within a day or two and they resume physical activity much faster than after invasive surgery. The entire procedure takes 3-4 hours and no general anesthesia is used. Most patients do not require post-operative pain medication.
10. Stem Cell Therapy Is Unsafe
The risks of adult stem cell therapy are minimal when adult stem cells are used. By using adult stem cells from your own fat tissue and bone marrow, your body accepts the new tissue as its own, eliminating the risk of rejection. Also, because the stem cells are from your own body, there is no risk of contracting a transmittable infectious disease from a donor.
11. Stem Cells Cure Everything
Stem cell procedures are not the answer to every degenerative condition, at least for now. Hips with bony encroachment on the joint space, large disc herniations causing sciatica, and knees with severely asymmetric degeneration are some conditions that typically don’t respond well to stem cell therapy.
12. Most Religions Oppose Stem Cell Research
Many religious leaders are against the use of controversial embryonic stem cells for research and treatment. Adult stem cells do not carry this stigma.
13. Americans Need to Travel Abroad for Stem Cell Treatments
Stem cell therapy regulations differ greatly by country. The FDA has provided guidelines defining the use of human stem cells in the US. Currently, Americans do have excellent access to stem cell treatments for a range of conditions.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there in the field right now. Make sure you study up before making any significant medical condition.
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