If there were any doubts that the body is a magnificent regenerative machine, the recent insight into the capabilities of stem cells should quell any uncertainties. Naturopath doctors work on the premise that when the body is given optimal conditions, via nutrition, stress reduction, and noninvasive therapies, the body will thrive, and self heal when needed. For years, naturopaths have raved and lauded the benefits that stem cell therapy can have on the body, but only recently is the broader public hearing these praises.
Stem cells are special cells in the body that can differentiate and replicate. This means that they can essentially transform into other types of cells in your body, and be used to regenerate specific body areas that may have received trauma. You read that right. Stem cells are cells that are already in your body, and can transform into whatever your body needs. Not only do they transform into what your body needs, but they purposely seek out areas of inflammation and trauma to heal and regenerate those areas. In addition to this, health care practitioners who employ stem cell therapy can extract and then inject stem cells in specific areas a person may need. Bone, muscle, fat, and cartilage are just some of the areas of the body in which stem cells have been shown to regenerate.
Currently there are 6 areas stem cells are extracted from:
1) Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cells
This is arguably the richest source of stem cells that can be extracted with the least amount of trauma to the cells. “Autologous” means the cells are coming from your own body, and “adipose” pertains to the fatty tissue. Fatty tissue contains high densities of adult stem cells. Furthermore, adipose tissue is metabolically slow and some scientists believe stem cells extracted from adipose tissue will be “younger” than the host they are extracted from. So if you are 35 years old, stem cells from this area may be 27 years old. Autologous adipose derived stem cells are the preferred extraction source for the majority of clinics that provide stem cell regeneration therapy.
2) Homologous Umbilical Cord Stem Cells
These stem cells are collected from donated umbilical cord tissue and the blood of live healthy birthed babies. Babies have higher stem cell counts than adults, which is why this tissue and blood is so valuable in regenerative medicine. “Homologous” refers to the cells coming from another person’s body.
3) Platelet Enriched Plasma (PRP)
Plasma is the clear, liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent, and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins. There are few, to no, stem cells in the PRP fluid, however platelet enriched plasma has been used for many years throughout the United States in the treatment of inflammatory pain.
PRP treatments require a simple blood draw. The scientific literature around PRP has proven to be about 50% effective and should be considered a temporary management, but not a cure, as it is not regenerative in nature.
4) Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells
Bone marrow is essential in the treatment of blood diseases and has been used in the United States for many years. Deep within the skeletal system, red bone marrow is rich with stem cells specifically hemopoietic (blood-making) cells. The setback with this method is that the extraction process can be very damaging and millions of stem cells can be diverted to healing the extraction site as opposed to the spine, cartilage, tendons etc. that a client may be seeking.
5) Amniotic Stem Cell
Amniotic fluid is the fluid that a child is surrounded by in the mother’s womb and is collected upon birth. This fluid has no living cells, can be stored at room temperature and contains high quantities of human growth factor. Amniotic fluid injection is only a temporary management of pain, and not a cure as it has been found to bring relief in arthritic/orthopedic inflammatory conditions.
6) Embyonic Stem Cells
These are stem cells derived from aborted fetuses and unborn human children, and are illegal in the United
There is still a lot of research and questions regarding stem cell therapy, but overall results have been positive. Researchers continue to explore the vast usages; as muscle, bone, fat, and cartilage have been shown to grow using stem cells, researchers are now turning their attention to see if stem cells can halt and improve conditions such as Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration. It is an exciting time for the naturopath community, however there are big money obstacles regarding stem cell therapy: The FDA and Big Pharma recognize that stem cell therapy has been highly affective and relatively cheap. With the United States consuming 80% of the world’s pain drugs, and the massive profits these drugs bring in, if stem cells ever become too popular or widely used, the therapy may bring a massive financial hit to the bottom line of the big drug companies. History has shown that inexpensive products/therapies that provide good results are normally subjected to smear campaigns, disapproval, and even blockage in the United States. If the big companies have their ways, there may indeed come a time when stem cell therapy will only be available abroad.
For now, there are clinics in the States that provide the therapy. Most of these clinics take an integrative approach via nutrition, exercise, stress reduction etc. in addition to injecting the stem cells. An initial consultation starts at $150, and the therapy itself can ranges anywhere between $5k - $25k, including banking (banking is when your stem cells are stored away to be used at a future date). As of now insurance companies do not pay for the therapy as they are being pressured by the big money drug companies to stay away from stem cells. I suggest reading up on stem cells, and keep an eye out for the latest insights, as more information becomes available every year.