Is Stem Cell Therapy Safe?

Louis A. Cona, MD
Updated on
Sep 5, 2022

minute read

A summary of what stem cells are, how they are used, and if they are safe.

Learn more about stem cell therapy and the science behind it.

Is stem cell therapy safe?

Yes, stem cell therapy is a safe procedure.  The physician must follow proper cell administration techniques.  Patients must also be screened for treatment candidacy as all people may not be a candidate for stem cells. 

At DVC Stem (stem cell clinic located in Grand Cayman), there have been no reports of any long term adverse side effects or worsening of the patient’s condition following treatment with cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells.

Are there any side effects of stem cell therapy?

Common short-term side effects immediately following the cell transplant have been fatigue, headache, and nausea. These effects typically subside between 1-2 hours.

Can the body reject stem cells?

Cord-tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells do not have any risk of rejection within the body. They are youthful, immune-privileged, undifferentiated cells that have no rejection in the body because they have yet to be “claimed.” There are no blood products associated with them either, removing the need for a donor match; they are accepted universally. These cells seek out inflammation in the body and begin to heal the damaged tissue. Mesenchymal cord tissue-derived stem cells have been administered thousands of times at clinics around the world without instances of rejection (graft vs. host disease).

Pictured: Artists microscopic depiction of Mesenchymal Stem Cell

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are cells that have not yet specialized in the body, meaning they have not grown into a particular type of cell with a specific function (e.g., muscle cell, skin cell, etc.). A stem cell can become many different cell types in the human body.

The process of stem cells transforming into new types of cells is called differentiation. This process is the most critical aspect of stem cell therapies, as the cells become new cells that are required for the body to heal.

Stem cells also have self-replicating capabilities. Meaning the cells can multiply into identical copies of themselves within the body after transfusion.  For example, stem cells used to treat a neurological injury, could become nerve cells, and then replicate to create exponentially more nerve cells on their own. This process can drastically increase the effectiveness of stem cell treatments over time.

“Stem cell research has shown that cell therapy may have the ability to promote the repair of diseased, dysfunctional, or injured tissue. There have been many positive and exciting outcomes for patients who have had little success with conventional treatments.” - Louis A. Cona, MD

As well as being essential to healthy human growth, stem cells are a potential source of new cells to 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.

Where do stem cells originate?

Stem cells can be harvested from fat (adipose), bone marrow, umbilical cord tissue, & umbilical cord blood. Each source has certain benefits, and the type of stem cell source used can vary from patient to patient, based on physician recommendations.

Cord tissue-derived stem cells explained

These are stem cells derived initially from umbilical cord tissue. Cord tissue is the insulating material (Wharton’s jelly) surrounding the vessels of the umbilical cord. The cord tissue can contain millions of a different type of stem cell that goes on to form a person’s nervous system, sensory organs, circulatory tissues, skin, bone, cartilage, and more.

Pictured: Umbilical cord tissue diagram showing where stem cells originate

Why use umbilical cord tissue?

Cord tissue is rich in mesenchymal stem cells, potentially used to help heal, regenerate & treat a variety of conditions. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) derived from umbilical cord tissue have shown the ability to avoid a negative response from a person’s immune system, allowing the cells to be transplanted in a wide range of people without fear of rejection. These transplants may have the ability to vastly increase the body’s natural healing abilities and have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive responses.

Does umbilical cord tissue contain live cells?

Yes, it does. The tissue found inside donated umbilical cords contain millions of youthful, undifferentiated stem cells. 

These cells are first added to a cell media culture, which allows them to replicate and produce higher numbers over a few generations. This process is called cell expansion. This process can turn a few million stem cells into trillions, 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.

Pictured: DVC Stem's Medical Director Dr. Cona treating a patient with mesenchymal stem cells

Our protocol calls for the administration of the 300 million cells into the line by hand at a very slow rate of 1cc per minute to ensure proper circulation and control of the procedure. Overall, the amount is roughly 3-4 million cells per kg of body weight, which is well under any level that would be considered a risk for circulation issues. The body is also able to discard any excess cells beyond the level of use in the body. - Louis A. Cona MD

Note: This post is intended to provide general information about regenerative medicine, and related areas. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

About the author

Louis A. Cona, MD

Medical Director | DVC Stem

Dr. Cona has been performing stem cell therapy for over 12 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.

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