Autoimmune diseases are leading causes of death among young and mid-aged women in America. For rheumatoid arthritis, the rate is 20 cases per 100,000 person-years. Grave disease effects 500 per 100,000 persons. The incident of diabetes is much higher, and it is one of the most chronic autoimmune conditions. Scientists have made leaps and bounds in stem cell researcher, and this therapy is showing much promise for curing autoimmune diseases.
Culture-expanded stem cells are being used in human and animal studies. With regard to safety, these cells have been found to be genetically stable and consistent. Cells cultured have maintained their stem cell properties, potency, and viability at cold storage conditions over 72 hours. Researchers have extensively tested stem cell injections in mice subjects, and results are quite interesting.
Factors that affect Stem Cell Therapy Efficacy
Candidates for stem cell therapy often have age-associated degenerative autoimmune diseases. This treatment has been often controversial in aging persons. One researcher found that colony-forming efficiency was observed in rabbit models when stem cells were derived from older animals. Adipose-derived stem cells are thought to work the same for both age groups, reducing proliferation and maintaining homeostasis.
After injections in animal studies, stem cells have been shown to migrate to the damaged body region. In a human study, the injured portion of the spinal cord was found to have a 18% increase in stem cells following injections. This was also noted in the spleen (40%) and the thymus (21%). Chemokines and growth factors are found to be moving to the injured region of the body after injections. Therapeutic potential is improved when the stem cells stimulate migration of other important proteins to the site of damage.
Stem Cells for Autoimmune Diseases
Clinical studies and case reports are showing much support for the use of stem cell therapy to treat autoimmune diseases. In mice subjects, one study showed efficacy of stem cells on experimental autoimmune hearing loss. Mice treated once a week for 6 weeks had improved anti-inflammatory cytokine induction and reduced inflammation. Some mice were found to have moderate improvements after treatment.
Regarding multiple sclerosis, researchers have proven that the progression of disease can be slowed or stopped, and some patients have shown improvement in motor function and quality of life. In 10 patients with polymyositis, stem cells were transplanted. Researchers found improvements with functional abilities after several treatments. Perhaps the best efficacy was noted in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers documented ability to stand without help or medications following stem cell therapy options. The study participants were previously unable to ambulate and chair-bound.
A large controlled study involved MS patients treated with stem cells. The patients received three injections of stem cells into the spinal fluid at 3-month intervals. Reports found a 70% improvement rate of 10 patients so far, and many reported reductions in level of disability. Overall, the ongoing study is showing promise for the use of stem cells to treat, alleviate symptoms of, and possibly cure MS.
Chan I, Kang SK, Shin S, et al. (2011). Stem cell treatment for patients with autoimmune disease by systemic infusion of culture-expanded autologous adipose tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells. Journ of Translat Med, 9, 181. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5876-9-181
Cooper GS & Stroehla BC (2003). The epidemiology of autoimmune diseases. Autoimm Rev, 2(3), 119-125.
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The most revolutionary regenerative medicine treatments now being offered include amniotic and umbilical stem cell treatments. These are FDA regulated and contain growth factors, hyaluronic acid, cytokines and stem cells.