One of the biggest advantages of stem cell therapy as a treatment for musculoskeletal injuries is its availability as yet another option. If there is one truism we know definitely applies to medicine it’s this: the more options a patient has, the better off that patient is. In light of that, there is an emerging new option within stem cell therapy itself.
Current modalities for stem cell therapy involve harvesting stem cells from the patient being treated. And while the procedure for harvesting is minimally invasive, it is still invasive nonetheless. Doctors must use needles to extract stem cells from either bone marrow or fat tissue. And with every extraction there is a risk of infection.
An emerging alternative is to use umbilical cord stem cells. These stem cells are harvested from what has long been considered medical waste. Research indicates they may be just as useful and efficacious as autologous stem cells. If that is true, it would take one of the most uncomfortable aspects of stem cell therapy out of the treatment.
An Ethical Source of Stem Cells
Do you remember the heated debates back in the 80s and early 90s over embryonic stem cell research? Many people who came out against the research did so on ethical grounds. They could not accept the destruction of human embryos just to get the stem cells. Enter umbilical cord blood.
Stem cells were first discovered in human cord blood in the late 1970s. Since then, ongoing research has shown that cord blood is a fertile source of multipotent stem cells that can be obtained safely and ethically.
When an umbilical cord is harvested, it is harvested after the baby’s birth. There is no destruction of embryo to get the stem cells. And if the umbilical cord and cord blood were not harvested, they would be disposed of it as waste. Instead, they provide an ethical source of stem cells for both research and established medical treatments.
Disadvantages of Autologous Stem Cells
If you were to go in for a knee treatment at a clinic that extracts stems cell donated by the patient, your doctor would likely take the stem cell material from your bone marrow or fat tissue. This sort of material is known as autologous material because you are donating it for your own treatment.
While there are many advantages of doing things this way, there are also disadvantages – among them being fewer cells as we age. Fewer stem cells means more material has to be harvested to achieve the best results. The older the patient, the more difficult it is harvesting enough material.
Umbilical cord blood effectively solves this problem. As an added bonus, cord blood can be harvested for both its stem cells and plasma. The plasma, containing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, is processed in a centrifuge to concentrate its platelets and growth factors. The resulting material can be injected into the site of injury or disease in order to promote natural healing.
Options Pushing the Industry Forward
Apex Biologix, a Utah company that supplies doctors and clinics with centrifuges and stem cell PRP kits, welcomes as many new options as can be made financially viable. As the company explains, options are one of the things pushing the regenerative medicine history forward.
If we want regenerative medicine to succeed as a viable alternative to surgery and pharmaceutical treatments, we cannot remain static. We can’t simply rest on the successes of yesterday. We must continue pushing forward with new options, like harvesting cord blood for its stem cells and blood plasma.