How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?

As the evidence of the clinical efficacy of stem cell therapy continues to grow, the physicians at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute receive hundreds of questions daily from people asking the same question: What happens to the stem cells once they are injected into the body? 

There are 2 theories, that are not mutually exclusive:

  1. The undifferentiated stem cells arrive at the site of injury where they differentiate and become the type of cells specific to the tissue at that site. For example, when the stem cells reach the área of damaged cartilage, they differentiate into chondrocytes (the cells that form cartilage).
    Most adult tissue regenerates tissue naturally, however, it may not contain or regenerate a sufficient supply of cells to heal the injury or damage. Every person has a limited number of naturally occuring stem cells and the population of stem cells decreases due to age, environmental toxins and lifestyle choices. Additionally, the total number of available stem cells varies from tissue to tissue, and in some cases, such as neuronal cells,  they do not regenerate.  
  2. The undifferentiated stem cells reach the site of injury where they stimulate self-repair mechanisms, revitalize tissue and preserve healthy tissue, by releasing platelet growth factors.
    Platelets, more than any other blood cell, produce molecules to regenerate and repair tissue. More than 100 platelet growth factors are known to provide specific functions that promote tissue regeneration.

How do the stem cells reach the site of injury?

Stem cells can be introduced or transplanted into the body through different routes: intravenous, intrathecal, intralesional, subcutaneously or via a nebulizer.

Regardless of the method, once the stem cells are introduced, using the most appropriate route of delivery, they initiate a process known as “homing”. This is when blood vessels direct the stem cells to the target tissue or área of damaged tissue needing repair.

From the blood vessels, the cells are guided by biological mediators called chemokines, cytokines and adhesion molecules to migrate from the postcapillary venules to the endothelial cells of the tissue where they differentiate into the type of specific cell necessary to repair the damage.  

How many stem cells arrive at the site of injury?

The number of stem cells that reach the site of injury will depend on the route of administration, the type of tissue processed, the quality of the processed tissue and the type of stem cells used.

For example, the concentration levels of stem cells in adipose tissue range from approximately 1 to 10% compared to bone marrow, that has concentration levels  ranging between 0.1 to 0.01%.

The concentration of cells derived from autologous tissues will depend on the quality of the sample that is processed, the patient’s habits, exposure to environmental toxins, diet, lifestyles, genetics, etc

Umbilical cord stem cells:

Stem cells derived from cord blood: Approximately 30 million human mesenchymal stem cells are obtained for every 1cc of processed umbilical cord blood tissue. 

Stem cells derived from Wharton’s jelly: This is the newest option and provides the highest number of mesenchymal stem cells. The Stem Cells Transplant Insitute has vials that provide approximately 120 million mesenchymal stem cells for each application.

How are the stem cells extracted from the tissue samples obtained from the patient?  Do all clinics use the same procedures?

The biological sample of the donor (adipose tissue, bone marrow, umbilical cord, etc.) is subjected to a washing and filtering phase in the laboratory, in order to eliminate undesirable tissue and cell remains, before passing to the extraction, concentration and quantification process. The isolation process requires special equipment and reagents that are validated using internationally validated protocols before the stem cells can be given to any patient.

This is important for patients to understand. It is essential patients ensure they are receiving stem cells from a physician certified in Regenerative Medicine, using protocols that have been clinically validated to be safe and effective.

The Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica is an experienced, reliable, highly qualified health care provider.

Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mesén received the Health Excellence Award from the IOCIM (Organization of Training and Medical Research) and we are committed to providing therapies that have been shown to be safe and effective.

Contact us today to learn more about stem cell therapy.

Scientific References:

1.Zhao Y, Zhang H. Update on the mechanisms of homing of adipose tissue-derived stem cells. Cytotherapy. 2016;18(7):816-27.
2.Bajek A, Gurtowska N, Olkowska J, Kazmierski L, Maj M, Drewa T. Adipose-Derived Stem Cells as a Tool in Cell-Based Therapies. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2016;64(6):443-454.