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5 myths about stem cells debunked

This article aims to debunk five common myths about stem cells.

Reading time: Around 6 minutes

David Lyons

Guest contributor

Feb 4, 2020

Louis A. Cona, MD

Medical Director of DVC Stem

Stem cell therapy clinic in Grand Cayman

Feb 4, 2020

It can be challenging to disseminate fact from fiction when it comes to researching stem cells. This article aims to debunk five common myths about stem cells.


Myth #1: Stem cells can cure almost every ailment


The misrepresentation of the therapeutic abilities of stem cells is quite common. Stem cells are not a “magic cure” for all diseases.  The long term therapeutic properties of stem cells are still being investigated, and although there have been many studies completed showing their positive effects on patients, results cannot always be guaranteed.  However, stem cell therapy is a viable treatment option for autoimmune conditions, chronic inflammation and a handful of other ailments.  


What can stem cell therapy potentially treat?


Stem cell therapy can potentially treat: 

  • ALS
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • COPD
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes (Type 1)
  • Heart Failure
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neurological conditions
  • Neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)


Pictured: Medical team led by Louis A. Cona, MD performing stem cell therapy for COPD


Myth #2: The United States offers the highest quality treatments


Despite the clinical evidence, the United States still has stringent regulations and laws against stem cell treatments. There may be many clinics in the US offering “stem cell therapies,” however, these treatments are highly restricted in scope and number of cells used.


Some clinics within the United States may also attract new patients and then refer them to international clinics in Mexico or Central America, where regulations are much looser, and the source of the stem cells is unknown. 


Conversely, there are also many international clinics pushing the envelope in stem cell research, cell quality and advanced therapy protocols. Some of these clinics are even holding patient-funded clinical studies.  These studies allow researchers to gain valuable insights into stem cell therapy and its potential to improve the disease state.  


For example, DVC Stem, an advanced stem cell clinic located in Grand Cayman, is partnered with Vitro Biopharma, an award-winning medical laboratory located in Golden, Colorado, which is fully FDA registered, cGMP compliant, ISO 9001, and ISO 13485 certified. 


Their cells are only sourced from the American Association of Tissue Bank (AATB) certified suppliers of full-term, ethically US donated human umbilical cords. The selection of these donated tissues is exceptionally regulated and strict. 


Currently, US lawmakers have placed substantial limitations on stem cell applications.  These limitations have increased the popularity of medical tourism.   Patients are beginning to look elsewhere for life-changing treatments, including expanded allogeneic stem cell therapy.



Myth #3: All Stem cells are sourced unethically


One of the significant hurdles stem cell therapy has had to overcome the misconception that all stem cells are embryonic (sourced from a fetus).


Embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos and typically carry a negative moral status.  This negative view initially arose because human embryos are sourced from abortions, which are a culturally controversial practice.


Today, most stem cells used in a clinical setting are derived from bone marrow, adipose or umbilical cord tissue.  These forms of stem cells are not sourced from embryos and thus do not carry a negative moral connotation.  


For example, Vitro Biopharma (DVC Stems partner lab) only uses the American Association of Tissue Bank (AATB) certified suppliers of full-term (>36 weeks), donated human umbilical cords. The selection of these donated tissues is exceptionally regulated and strict. 


The cords are tested for STDs, Hep A/B/C/D, TB, Zika virus, no history of cancer or chronic illness, no history of autoimmune diseases, no tattoos or piercings, no travel abroad with one year, no history of CJD, negative for HIV, negative for HTLV 1 AND 2, and no history of drug or alcohol abuse. After the tissue is vigorously screened and accepted, Vitro then uses its clinical-grade and award-winning proprietary culture medium to expand the stem cells out to roughly 300 million cells per treatment.

Pictured: Umbilical cord tissue, also known as Wharton's Jelly


Why use cord tissue-derived stem cells?


While other familiar sources of stem cells are fat tissue or bone marrow taken from the patient directly, there are many benefits to using cord tissue. Cord tissue-derived cells are necessarily “new,” in their most primal state, free from the effects of ageing or disease. Stem cells age as we age and cells taken from a patient are affected by the condition of the patient at the time of extraction. 


There is even evidence to suggest that cells extracted from patients with existing medical conditions risk reintroducing these symptoms when used in treatments. Cord tissue-derived stem cells eliminate that risk. Additionally, they are readily available, in high supply, and are minimally invasive to the patient, without the need for any extractions, free from immune rejection, and have zero risks of transferring viruses or other communicable diseases.



Myth #4: Umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells do not contain “live cells”


The belief argues that umbilical cord tissue does not contain any live cells, whereas cells derived from bone marrow and adipose (fat tissue) do. This is a common misconception that some physicians in the United States may try to promote.  


Umbilical cord tissue contains millions of undifferentiated live cells that have immense healing potential.


The tissue found inside donated umbilical cords is called Wharton’s Jelly and contains millions of youthful, undifferentiated stem cells. Stem cells are grown in a cell media culture, which allows the cells to replicate and produce higher numbers over a few generations; this is called cell expansion. This process can turn a few million stem cells into billions, ready for use in treatments. 


Culturing and expansion of stem cells would not be possible if the cells extracted from the original cord tissue were not alive and active. 


Additionally, the cells used for treatment are tested for viability both before leaving the lab and just before treatment to ensure proper quality assurance standards are met.


Lab quality control is essential.


DVC Stem’s partner lab Vitro Biopharma rigorously tests cells for potency, blood-borne pathogens, contaminating agents, fungal presence, cellular ATP levels, and proper growth rates. The entire production process is completed in a certified sterile clean room, which must meet all regulations by the FDA, ISO, and CLIA. 


Once the cells are ready for use, they are held in sub-zero cryo-storage and shipped overnight to DVC Stem in the Cayman Islands for immediate use for a patient’s treatment.


Additionally, the cells used for treatment are tested for viability both before leaving the lab and just before treatment to ensure proper quality assurance standards are met.


Retaining cell viability during transportation from lab to clinic is an extremely delicate process that must be executed carefully from start to finish.     



Myth #5: Stem cells will not cross the blood-brain barrier


Stem cells are about 10-15 microns in size, smaller than white blood cells.  This allows the cells to pass through the blood-brain barrier when delivered via IV. 


Studies have shown exciting improvements in strength, coordination, motor skills, and mobility with Multiple Sclerosis patients.  These findings would not be possible if the cells were unable to access the nervous system. 


In layman's terms, stem cells mainly seek out areas of inflammation or damage, including nerves, and seek to repair or regenerate them.  The ability of stem cells to potentially regenerate neurons within the central nervous system and clinical findings supporting such strongly suggests that stem cells, when introduced via IV, can cross the blood-brain barrier.



In conclusion


As well as being essential to healthy human growth, stem cells are a potential source of new cells that can replace damaged or diseased tissue. These abilities that stem cells possess are what make them so promising in the treatment of various diseases and conditions.



References:


(1) Holland, S., Lebacqz, K. and Zoloth, L. (2019). The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate. [online] Google Books. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=R1wV2pNTRfwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=embryonic+stem+cells+controversy&ots=7IiaxVP7BG&sig=cBNPBWm8ICm73ijbdPSTt1UItdM#v=onepage&q=embryonic%20stem%20cells%20controversy&f=false [Accessed 31 Dec. 2019].


(2) Riordan, N. H., Morales, I., Fernández, G., Allen, N., Fearnot, N. E., Leckrone, M. E., … Paz Rodriguez, J. (2018, 9 Mar). Clinical feasibility of umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29523171.


(3) Levy, Michael L., et al. “Phase I/II Study of Safety and Preliminary Efficacy of Intravenous Allogeneic Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Chronic Stroke.” Stroke, vol. 50, no. 10, 2019, pp. 2835–2841., DOI:10.1161/strokeaha.119.026318.


(4) Shroff, Geeta. “Transplantation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis and Lyme Disease.” The American Journal of Case Reports, International Scientific Literature, Inc., 13 Dec. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5156555/.


(5) Venkataramana, N. K., Kumar, S. K. V., Balaraju, S., Radhakrishnan, R. C., Bansal, A., Dixit, A., … Totey, S. M. (2009, 6 Aug). Open-labelled study of unilateral autologous bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1931524409002205#!

"Dr. Cona is a leading edge stem cell treatment physician"

Matthew Murry - MS Patient

2 DAYS POST TREATMENT

"Is the video I posted from this morning! My speech is so easy for me now, got easier throughout the day! I can talk like a NYer (fast) for the first time in years! Praise God!"

- Matthew Murry

3 DAYS POST TREATMENT

Tyler explains his experience at DVC Stem in the Cayman Islands.

Tyler is optimistic that he will see positive results post treatment.

"The cool thing about the Cayman Islands besides being beautiful, it was an opportunity to get some rest and relaxation allowing my body to heal and restore. I'm back in the US now and feel like I am ready to conquer the world."

- Tyler Heid

2 WEEKS POST TREATMENT

2 weeks post treatment, MS patient Tyler is beginning to see amazing progress. He has been wheelchair bound for the last year and has not been able to move his legs unassisted before now.

Tyler Heid, lifting his foot 12" off the ground with 2 lb weights on his ankles.

Tyler - 2 weeks post treatment

"I'm on a path of progression and I'm getting better and better each day."

Tyler Heid - 2 months post treatment

2 MONTHS POST TREATMENT

Tyler updates about his progress, explaining the amazing response he has been receiving from his friends and family.

"People coming up to me saying I am moving, talking and smiling so much better. They are noticing a lot of things that have improved over the course of 3 months."

"This morning I was able to do things that I was unable to do before, I was able to stand up and lift my leg higher than I ever have before."

5 MONTHS POST TREATMENT

5 months post treatment Tyler sends us an update on his progress.

"I'm able to smile better, I have more control over the left side of my face."

"I have an increased ability to grip, lift my legs higher and higher which has gone well."

Tyler is optimistic and on the right track to recovery. We are ecstatic to see his progress and look forward to more updates from him.

"I have an increased ability to grip, lift my legs higher and higher which has gone well."

Tyler Heid - 5 months post treatment

EXCITING IMPROVEMENTS

Only 3 days after treatment, Matthew is now able to touch his nose with his eyes closed as well as touch his thumb and pinky together. Both of which he was previously unable to do before treatment.

We are excited to see his continued progress. His story will be updated here so keep an eye out!

Matthew showing his progress with mobility

Matthew Murry - 3 days post treatment

"This is exciting stuff, god bless"

Matthew Murry - MS Patient

2 WEEKS POST TREATMENT

Matthew experiences sensation in the bottom of his feet after receiving a simple nerve test.

His left foot did not experience any sensation or move at all, but what happened to his right foot is extremely exciting!

50 DAYS POST TREATMENT

Matthew is now able to lift his leg unassisted. He was previously unable to do so.

Matthew is experiencing the benefits of stem cell therapy first hand. You can view his progress video here.


Matthew showing some amazing mobility improvements.

Matthew Murry - 50 days post treatment

"Amazing progress from one of our MS patients Matthew Murray"

Louis A. Cona, MD - DVC Stem

3 MONTHS POST TREATMENT

Matthew is able to stand up with the assistance of stability bars.

David Lyons

Multiple Sclerosis

Although David Lyons was able to successfully fight Multiple Sclerosis through a strict regimen of diet and exercise, he wanted to ensure he was doing everything he could to stay fit. Multiple Sclerosis can be managed with treatment, but there is currently no cure for the disease. For that reason, David came to DVC Stem years ago to use the regenerative and anti-inflammatory attributes of stem cells to aid in his fight for fitness.

The positive results he experienced enabled David to stay strong in the gym, now into his 60s, and that is why he continues to support our clinic to this day.

Are you a candidate?

Complete our online application form to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy.

APPLY FOR TREATMENT

About Our Medical DIrector

LOUIS A. CONA, MD

Dr. Cona has been performing stem cell therapy for over 10 years. He is a member of the World Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (WAAAM). He is also a recognized member of the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council (UK), the Caribbean College of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is the Medical Director for DVC Stem a world-renowned stem cell therapy clinic located in Grand Cayman.

Are you a candidate?

Complete our online application form to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy.

APPLY FOR TREATMENT

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info@dvcstem.com

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