Ingrid Machado / CEO Stem Cell Miami
The other day a friend asked me what my New Year’s resolution was. When I told her “communicate better,” she gave me the kind of look that says “There are SO many other things you should be working on!”
I can’t blame my friend—she has the kind of profession that everyone understands. At parties, when people ask her what she does, she says she’s a lawyer and the questions stop there. Me? I tell people I work with stem cells and they follow me for the rest of the evening asking questions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the questions. It’s just that I keep assuming that people know about my field when, in reality, there’s a tremendous amount of misinformation that people have to sort through.
Anyway, I’m writing this on New Year’s Day and I need to get to work on my resolution, so let’s take a few minutes to go over what stem cells are, what they can and cannot do, and what treatments are available. First of all, stem cells are just a special type of cell that can transform itself into a different type of cell. In embryos, stem cells become the various cells that make up the body; in adults, stem cells take care of the damage repair and cell turnover that keeps us going.
Over time, scientists realized that they could collect stem cells and use them to help the body heal. These therapies may use stem cells donated by someone else, or they may be taken from the patient’s own body. When taken from one’s own body, they are called autologous cells, and they are the safest therapy because there is no question about tissue matching or introduction of donor infections. It’s important to keep this distinction in mind, because there have been a number of news reports of infections in stem cell transplants from donors. For that important reason, at our Stem Cell Miami Institute we only use Autologous Stem Cells.
While we continue to be experts at treating many musculoskeletal conditions like: pain due to wear & tear of the knees, hips and shoulders as a result of arthritis; shoulder tendon ruptures, joint replacement issues and unsuccessful spinal surgeries. Our team of highly qualified doctors has also successfully treated damaged spinal discs, spinal arthritis, as well as hip, ankle and elbow related problems. Furthermore, we possess tremendous expertise at treating lumbar degenerative discs, low back pain, sciatica and even helping with symptoms of Fibromyalgia, Peripheral Neuropathy (Diabetic Nerve Pain) / Peripheral Nerve Damage, Erectile Dysfunction, Urinary Incontinence and certain cases of Vascular Insufficiency. In addition, Stem Cell Therapies are also extremely effective to repair scarring and are used on many beauty and hair enhancement treatments.
Stem cells may seem miraculous, but they are not a miracle. Used early on, they can repair damage in joints due to degeneration or external damage, but if the situation is left untreated too long, bone rubbing on bone causes the type of damage that cannot be repaired without surgery, perhaps even requiring the replacement of the entire joint with an artificial device. Unfortunately, there are many patients that, because of advanced age or medical conditions, face enhanced risks during surgery. These patients often come to us seeking an alternative to surgery. If the condition is very advanced, stem cells may not be as effective, but they often provide a valuable delay from surgery. For many patients, being able to keep an active lifestyle for another few years before facing the risks of surgery is worth getting stem cell therapy.
For those considering Stem Cell Therapy, there are several methods available. Stem cells may be taken from bone marrow or from fat (again, I’m omitting embryonic, fetal, and other donor cells because of ethical and safety issues.) Extracting cells from bone marrow requires inserting a needle into a bone (usually the thigh bone or the hip bone) to draw a small amount of bone marrow. The procedure is a little more involved and requires special equipment to make sure the needle is positioned correctly, but it is preferred because bone marrow generally provides the best and most plentiful stem cells.
Stem cells may also be drawn from fat cells through liposuction. This involves inserting a suction device (basically a fat needle) into areas that have layers of fat, usually the belly or the “love handles.” Drawing fat from the belly is riskier because of the proximity to vital organs, so it is safer to draw fat from the sides and back. At Stem Cell Miami, we do not draw fat from the belly because we consider it an unnecessary risk.
There is also a related therapy that people often confuse with stem cells. PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) is obtained by taking blood and running it through a centrifuge to remove red blood cells and leave a medium that has growth factors and signaling proteins. PRP has many applications and offers many benefits, but it does not have the healing power of real stem cells.
Regardless of the method, once the stem cells are harvested, they are inserted into the damaged area, where they change type (or “differentiate”) and multiply. Results are often evident after a few weeks or months. How long the benefit lasts depends on the patient and severity of the condition, but most patients report relief from their pain for two to three years. In some exceptional cases, we have followed patients that have no pain even after ten years.
As I finished this article, I felt a flush of victory—I had made a start on my New Year’s resolution! Then I realized that I really had not explained when one should opt for PRP and when to seek stem cells. While I was thinking about the differences, I noticed I forgot to mention the differences between local injections and IVs. I guess they are topics for future articles…
Finally, on behalf of the entire staff at Stem Cell Miami we want to wish you all a very healthy and prosperous 2019! For more information or to schedule a free consultation and MRI evaluation with our team of experts, please call Stem Cell Miami at (305) 598-7777 or contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit our website www.stemcellmia.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, as well as watch our amazing testimonial videos on our YouTube channel.