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What are stem cells and are they safe?

Louis A. Cona, MD

Nov 27, 2019

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

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 becoming new types of cells is called differentiation. This process is the most important 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. This allows the cells to multiply into identical copies of themselves, even after they have already gone through differentiation in the body. For example, if stem cells were used to treat a neurological injury, cells administered during treatment could become nerve cells, and then replicate to create exponentially more nerve cells on their own. This 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.

As well as being essential to normal 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.

Pictured: Artists microscopic depiction of Mesenchymal Stem Cell

Where do stem cells come from?

Stem cells are often 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 that are originally derived 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 which can be 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 a strong anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive response.

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 then added to a cell media culture, which allows them to replicate and produce greater numbers over a few generations. This 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.

Are stem cells safe?

Yes stem cell therapy is a safe procedure when the cells are administered with proper technique. It is important that patients are also 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 negative side effects or worsening of the patient's condition.

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

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

Will my 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 universally accepted. These cells simply 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 and there have not been any recorded single instances of rejection (graft vs. host disease).

What is DVC Stem?

DVC Stem is a stem cell clinic located in the Cayman IslandsDVC Stem has been offering stem cell therapies for years. Our protocols are all IRB approved, and our cells come from well regulated, U.S. based, FDA compliant laboratories. We only offer high quality products and tried and tested treatments to our patients.

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

"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!

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.

About the author

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.

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