One Thing Would Blow Open the Doors of Stem Cell Therapy

At Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute ( in Murray, Utah, doctors are trained in the use of PRP and stem cell therapies to treat a range of injuries and diseases. More specifically, they are taught to utilize autologous material to promote natural healing in patients suffering from things like osteoarthritis, sports injuries, and even male pattern baldness. While the procedures doctors learn are highly effective for their intended purposes, they are still limited in scope.

The contemporary use of autologous PRP and stem cells is based in the principles of regenerative medicine. That is to say the body can naturally heal itself if given the right tools. Autologous PRP and stem cell material does just that. But doctors cannot take stem cells from muscle, for example, and use them to fight leukemia. It doesn’t work that way.

The biggest challenge in regenerative medicine right now is finding a source of stem cells that can be coaxed to differentiate into any form of tissue necessary. Indeed, this is the one thing that would blow the doors of stem cell therapy wide open. At the current time, there is only one such source of stem cells: human embryos. Unfortunately, embryonic stem cells come with a whole host of problems, not the least of which are legitimate ethical questions.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Beyond the ethical issues related to embryonic stem cells, use of such cells is risky due to their instability and tendency to generate tumors. So while research using embryonic stem cells continues, scientists are much more focused on another type of stem cell known as the mesenchymal stem cell.

Mesenchymal stem cells exist in just about every kind of tissue in the human body. They can be extracted from adult patients and used to treat them with very little risk of harm. As long as extracted material is only used to treat the person from whom it was taken, there is virtually no risk of rejection either. The big problem with mesenchymal stem cells is, once again, that of differentiation.

In a perfect world, we would have access to a source of stem cells that were unlimited in their ability to differentiate. We do not have that source short of working with embryonic stem cells. With mesenchymal stem cells, the question remains as to whether they can be coaxed to differentiate into non-mesenchymal tissue.

For the record, mesenchymal tissue is connective tissue. Mesenchymal stem cells differentiate to create numerous kinds of tissue including cartilage, muscle, bone, and even fat. Is it possible to coax the stem cells to differentiate into skin cells? What about blood cells?

Current Mesenchymal Therapies

The fact that mesenchymal stem cells work so well for regenerative medicine purposes is not surprising. Indeed, modern stem cell therapies to treat osteoarthritis and sports injuries utilize mesenchymal stem cells taken from fat tissue. Such therapies have proven highly successful for treating a full range of musculoskeletal problems.

Unfortunately, the same stem cells doctors would extract to treat a sports injury cannot be used to address something like lung cancer or ulcers. If there were a way we could coax the cells to differentiate into non-mesenchymal tissues, it would change everything.

Mesenchymal stem cells are helpful in that they can differentiate into different forms of mesenchymal tissue. But they are still limited in that they do not differentiate into other forms of tissue – like embryonic stem cells do. The goal now is to see if we can overcome that barrier. If we can, it will blow the doors of stem cell therapy wide open.

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