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  • Glenn Flanagan, MD

Stem Cell Treatment Miracles?


photo credit from an article by LEONID SCHNEIDER


Are all stem cell treatments the same? Of course not.


That's the simple answer. But what may surprise you is how different the treatments really are from clinic to clinic, patient to patient, and provider to provider.


First of all, and most importantly, I have to call out the fake stem cell treatments. The biggest scam in the regenerative medicine industry over the last few years has been companies marketing products as "stem cells" when they actually don't contain any live stem cells. You might feel safe if you're offered a treatment by a provider who you trust, but the reality is that even your most trusted health care provider may have been tricked by these companies into believing the products contain live stem cells.


Massive marketing budgets have led to misinformed company reps marketing lies to patients and providers. This has led to lawsuits over fraud, fines and warning letters to companies and providers. Unfortunately, this fake stem cell industry is still thriving.


Even worse, some providers understand they are offering fake stem cell treatments but continue to do so to increase revenue at their practices.


These fake treatments have a common source, which is birth tissues. Mothers sign forms around the time of labor, with minimal education about what they mean, allowing companies to freely use the placental, amniotic and cord tissue from the birth of their children.


These tissues are stored in banks and sold to companies for profit. The companies manipulate, package, store and ship the products around the world, also for profit.

The mothers receive no compensation.


On top of that, these products have been studied multiple times - each time showing that they contain no live cells. So if you go to a seminar, or a clinic and someone offers you a stem cell treatment that comes from a previously packaged vial of birth tissue, don't be fooled.


Sooooo, is there any good news about using stem cells to treat orthopedic problems? Let's find out!


The only way to get living cells is from your own body, your own cells, to use for yourself.


Even the use of your own cells is regulated, which can be debated, but it is what it is. The two main sources of cells being studied are fat and bone marrow.


Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) are the ones that can differentiate into and organize healing of our musculoskeletal system - things like bone, cartilage, discs, muscles, tendons and ligaments.


These adult stem cells found in our adipose/fat tissue are adherent to the tissue, and difficult to separate. There are a few ways this separation can be achieved, but the FDA has ruled it is "more than minimal manipulation" to undertake this process, which means it should not be done in the United States. Instead, a process to emulsify the fat has gained popularity, and the procedure is more of a "fat transfer" that contains stem cells than it is an injection of free stem cells.


These adult stem cells found in our bone marrow are much easier to isolate, with a simple bedside centrifuge. For now, using a centrifuge to isolate the stem cells in the bone marrow is widely thought to be allowed by the FDA. It is also these bone marrow derived stem cells that have been studied the most for orthopedic applications. For these reasons, this is how the majority of the reputable clinics are providing stem cell treatments at this time.


SO, without going into any more detail about the research, applications, and skills needed to provide stem cell treatments - I hope this simple understanding about the different stem cells that are being marketed will help you find a provider who you can trust.

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Glenn M. Flanagan, MD

Call (239) 276 - 7074

Fax (239) 280 - 0290

2950 Tamiami Trail North, suite 13
Naples, FL 34103
USA

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