Lichen sclerosus is an autoimmune skin condition that mainly affects older women. According to research, around 20% of those with the disease have a relative with it also. The male-to-female ratio is around 1:6, and researchers have noted increased levels of certain cytokines and genetic expression associated with lichen sclerosus. Because lichen sclerosus is associated with inflammation, doctors are using stem cell therapy for treatment.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have hypo-immunogenicity due to their low expression level in major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. MSCs have been proven to offer effective anti-inflammatory effects in mouse models, and they stimulate specific memory T cells and host adaptive immunity. MSCs exert anti-inflammatory effects by influencing proliferation, function, recruitment, and fate of adaptive and innate immune cells, as well as natural killer cells.
MSC-mediated immunomodulation has been studied in many inflammatory skin conditions, such as lichen sclerosus. These studies used administration of bone marrow-derived stem cells through intravenous route. Most clinical data support the therapeutic safety and efficacy of IV injected stem cells for acute and chronic skin disorders. In a recent research report, scientists proved that injection of autologous MSCs with hyaluronic acid scaffold resulted in significant improvement of skin symptoms in patients with systemic sclerosis. In addition, several studies have showed great therapeutic potential of stem cells in rodent models, and results have included decreased fibrosis in cutaneous scleroderma.
Adult MSCs are undifferentiated cells that can replace dying cells in the body and regenerated damaged tissue. The implanted or injected cells seek out area of disease, injury, and destruction and regenerate the tissues, enabling the person’s natural healing processes.
Lichen sclerosus is associated with vulvar dystrophy, which causes burning, itching, vaginal dryness, and pain with sex. There is no cure for this condition. Researchers have found that stem cell therapy does offer some results. In a very current study, adipose-derived stem cell injections were found to offer improved tone of dystrophic tissues in women with the condition. The results showed that patients reported significant pain reduction and sexual function improvement after treatment. The findings also involved a 2-yyear follow up, which showed stem cell efficacy. In addition, photographic documentation after two years showed improvement of vulvar trophism, restoration of elasticity, and decreasing or disappearance of erythematous areas.
A detailed clinical study was recently conducted involving 15 female patients with lichen sclerosus. The ages of the women ranged from 27 to 62 years, and all patients had no improvement with topical steroid therapy. The patients were treated with adipose-derived stem cells along with autologous platelet-rich plasma. The stem cells and PRP was injected into the targeted areas. Within 2 weeks, symptoms of all women improved, including decrease in itching and burning. In addition, the vulvar skin and mucosa appeared softer and more elastic, with a normal color. Follow-up 3 months later showed satisfactory, stable results.
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Amniotic and Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Treatments
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.