Last Reviewed on November 12, 2021 by Alice Pien, MD & Asher Milgrom, PhD
Lecture : What are stem cells? – Part 3 of 4 – What do stem cells do?
(The following is a transcription of the above video)
These mesenchymal stem cells with their magic soup and those little vesicles that release the soup into the body and into the organ that’s damaged, etc.
What are these cells?
What is the outcome of this soup of cytokines that is released?
What Do Stem Cells Do?
1. Reduce Inflammation
Studies show that stem cells cause a massive reduction of inflammation. This is one of the main benefits of stem cells.
This is really important because most of our chronic diseases that we all know of, have as a part of their fundamental element, a systemic inflammation of our body. It may only be your joints that are hurting because you have rheumatoid arthritis but you have, in fact, massive systemic inflammation throughout your body because of this rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies show that the magic soup that the mesenchymal stem cells release immediately reduces inflammation at its source, throughout your entire body.
Stem Cells Versus Pharmaceutical Medications
Let me give you an example of how these stem cells work on inflammation using rheumatoid arthritis.
The drugs that you hear advertised all the time on TV, Enbrel and Humira, they target the markers that you’ll find in someone’s body, in their blood, that are inflammatory markers, showing how much inflammation is going on in their body. In people with rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory diseases those markers are really high where they shouldn’t be.
So you take Enbrel or Humira and after a certain amount of time, usually numerous weeks, slowly but surely, these drugs will suppress those markers. But those drugs have many very serious side effects that are not good for us.
On the other hand, Regenerative Medicine specialists around the world report that if you give that patient an infusion of stem cells, within hours, a day or two at most, those same inflammatory markers get reduced by like 50%. And there’s absolutely no downtime, no side effects, no detrimental elements like there are for those pharmaceuticals.
Studies also show that if you give them a second dose of stem cells, those same inflammatory markers will go down another 50%. This is powerful medicine and it is the stem cells that bring it. That release that medicine into our bodies.
2. Modulate Autoimmune Disease
Studies show that stem cells are used for diseases where our immune system has gone haywire and is causing all sorts of havoc in our body.
Many of these diseases we’re very familiar with. Things such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, IBD or inflammatory bowel disease. Even type one diabetes (you may not know is also an autoimmune disease). Psoriasis which is a skin disease. Even asthma has autoimmune elements to it and various thyroid dysfunctions are also autoimmune.
Now there’s a whole other class of diseases that have immune dysfunction associated with them that stem cells can be used for. They are not exactly autoimmune but studies show that stem cells work for them as well. These include diseases where you have a chronic persistent infection that causes the immune system to get over-reactive because the body is infected and the infection doesn’t go away. Diseases like Lyme disease is a perfect example of that. Viruses such as herpes or HIV also fall into this category as well.
Normal Controlled Activation of the Immune System
To understand how stem cells are used to help in diseases such as these we first have to review how the immune system is supposed to work.
We have these immune cells, these lymphocytes, or white blood cells as they are more commonly referred to. They are designed to react to invaders coming into our body.
Take a look at this slide, we have a cell that is waiting around to be activated. It is properly activated when a virus or bacteria or some kind of invader comes into our body. This causes the cell to become activated.
Once it’s activated, it’s going to expand. In other words, it’s going to duplicate itself and create a small army of other cells that are activated to fight that one pathogen, that one invader, that started this whole cascade going.
This is a very specific function. It is highly controlled because you don’t want to get this thing going out of control. It’s going to then fight the invader that has come into the body.
You’ll see that these cells that expanded, this army of cells, are releasing a whole bunch of special biochemical moderators that are going to fight the infection. Some of these biochemicals are in fact, inflammatory biochemicals. It is a necessary inflammation.
Most people think that inflammation is always bad, that’s not true. Our bodies need to have inflammation in order to do all sorts of important functions including the immune system fighting pathogens.
When this is a controlled very specific system, it will deal with invaders without going out of control and hurting things or attacking things that aren’t the invaders.
Abnormal Uncontrolled Activation of the Immune System
In an autoimmune condition or autoimmune disease, we have our immune white cells (lymphocytes) that are waiting to be activated.
In this case though, they are activated improperly, abnormally, aberrantly, not by an invading bacterium or virus but by our own tissue. Something in our tissues has activated the cell and the cell then goes through this massive clonal expansion.
Billions of these cells are created in our body and all of them are releasing these inflammatory biochemicals that are causing the disease state in our tissues.
They’re attacking our organs such as in diabetes. It’s attacking our own pancreas and causing us to lose the ability to make insulin.
Or they’re attacking the cartilage in our joints and creating rheumatoid arthritis and deformation of our joints and all that pain that you feel.
Pharmaceutical Drugs and the Immune System
In traditional Western medicine we have these pharmaceutical drugs that will work on helping us contain the inflammation that we’ve been talking about.
A great example of this are the drugs Humira and Enbrel prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis. How do these pharmaceutical drugs work? They will target those lymphocytes, those immune cells, and clamp down on them. This inhibits the immune cells ability to release those inflammatory lymphokine biochemicals.
The drugs will also target those inflammatory biochemicals themselves. They will inactivate them.
It takes a number of weeks for this to take place but there’s a problem. The drugs are clamping down not just on the aberrant cells that are attacking our tissues, they’re clamping down on all the immune cells.
So now your natural necessary important immune functions are being suppressed throughout your body. This makes you susceptible to other diseases and infections.
This is not a good thing.
How Stem Cells are used for Autoimmune Inflammation
Now let’s see how stem cells are used to deal with this autoimmune inflammatory disease situation.
Studies show that the stem cells will attack the situation right at the source.
Instead of waiting down to the bottom of that slide where all those inflammatory biochemicals are released by the immune army or that clonal army. They will go up to the top, where that aberrant activation occurs, and they will stop the whole system from going out of control where that clonal army is created.
Regenerative Medicine specialists around the world report that stem cells essentially heal the problem at its source.
Instead of just managing the disease and trying to manage the inflammation as pharmaceutical drugs do, with all of their many negative side-effects, stem cells are used to essentially cure the disease where it starts according to the studies on the NIH website.
We don’t exactly understand how the stem cells do this. There’s still much about what the stem cells do that is mysterious to us but the fact is, they do it.
So if you’re suffering from any of those diseases that have autoimmune issues or autoimmune components to them or massive inflammation because of a chronic infection, studies show that stem cells could very well be your solution.
3. Stimulate Regeneration
We’ve been talking about what stem cells do and how they are used and sure enough, if you have a damaged organ or damaged tissue and you insert these mesenchymal stem cells into that damaged organ or tissue, studies show that the stem cells help the organ start to regenerate.
Kobe Bryant flew to Germany to get stem cells in his knee because he couldn’t get them here. That’s a political issue, we won’t talk about that. Now, this kind of work with stem cells can be done in the United States and the results are magnificent.
Key Properties of Stem Cells
One of the questions that many people have about what do stem cells do… “Hey, these stem cells came out of someone else’s body”, true.
1. Immune Privileged
“So, if you take tissue from someone else’s body and insert it into my body aren’t I going to have an immune response or rejection of those stem cells?”
You’ve heard of course, that sometimes, people have to match. For instance, if someone needs a kidney transplant, you have to match that kidney donor with the kind of cell membranes that you have in your body, so that when you insert that kidney, you don’t reject it.
When you reject a transplanted tissue, the reaction of your immune system is intense and that in fact can kill you let alone not having a functioning kidney. It’s called graft-versus-host disease.
These mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord don’t have the cell wall components that cause those kinds of reactions. Stem cells are what they call immune privileged, so that you can use the stem cells and the other person doesn’t get a reaction to them.
Modulate Immune Response
In fact, studies show that the stem cells ability to modulate immune response is so powerful that, not only do you not reject them but if you’re in the middle of rejecting some other tissue that you had transplanted like a kidney and you’re in the middle of the terrible chaos of a graft-versus-host disease, if they infuse those stem cells in you, those stem cells will calm that reaction down and you’ll be able to keep the kidney.
Regenerative Medicine specialists around the world report that the stem cells can be used to heal you of that graft-versus-host reaction.
Last but not least of the many benefits of stem cells, many people are concerned, “Will those stem cells grow a tumor in me?”
No, they won’t and this is one of the things that the FDA required a great deal of stem cell research on, to be sure that these stem cells don’t promote cancer.
In fact, it’s been proven by many studies that not only do they not grow cancer, they will kill tumors, cancerous tumors. There is a lot of research on this and by the way at the end of this lecture, you’ll see some links that you can go to, for additional information on stem cells.
Clinical Use of Stem Cells
So, what are these mesenchymal stem cells used for? Here are the three areas; Inflammation, Autoimmune and Regeneration. Please note that some of these treatments may or may not be available in the United States. Please see the FDA Disclaimer for more information.
Heart disease by the way, heart disease is always associated with vascular inflammation and it’s a whole topic for another lecture.
Liver disease, diabetes, autism, the inflammation of your vasculature also causes stroke; so there’s an element of inflammation and getting strokes.
In the case of autism just know though that autism is associated with massive GI or intestinal inflammation. Studies show that if you give the stem cells to a child who’s suffering from autism or even a young adult who is suffering from autism, the inflammation and the GI goes away and the symptoms and the characteristics of the autism start healing and it can be very dramatic. Another one of the many benefits of stem cells.
We’ve spoken about rheumatoid arthritis, MS and Parkinson’s.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy, not necessarily associated with autoimmune, it’s more of a genetic disorder.
Well guess what, studies show that the use of stem cells not only arrests the progression of the muscular dystrophy, they can even heal it.
It’s just incredible, the magic that happens with the use of stem cell therapy.
Joints, spinal cords, brain, strokes, the list is endless but let me simply say that one of the most dramatic examples is when someone is paralyzed because they’ve had a spinal cord severed. The prime example is a commercial pilot, who’s in an accident, has severed his spinal cord, and became quadriplegic.
Stem cells were used on his spine and a few months later, full-function regained. He got his license back and he’s flying airplanes again.
This kind of thing was the stuff of fantasy and now it’s real, it’s actually happening.
Next up …
About the Authors
Doctors Alice Pien, MD and Asher Milgrom, Phd are established pioneers in the fields of Regenerative Medicine and Skincare. Their expertise ranges from advanced laser systems to HCT/P – Stem Cell medicine. Their medical education and advanced certifications span from medical schools of NY State University, the University of Chicago, to Johns Hopkins, Harvard and UCLA. They approach medicine with the clinical expertise of over 85,000 successful treatments over the past 20 years and significant scientific research resulting in proprietary protocols that they customize for each individual patient.
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