Stem Cells and Human Cord Tissue Products
Stem cell therapies are becoming increasing popular. As patient demand rises, so does the number of practices offering these therapies. They are being commonly used to help rejuvenate musculoskeletal tissue and to help with the symptoms of arthritis and other orthopedic conditions.
Outpatient treatments using stem cells as therapeutics are either derived from the patient (fat harvesting or bone marrow biopsy) or they are derived from the umbilical cords of live healthy birthed babies (these are NOT embryonic stem cells). The latter is becoming increasingly popular as science is showing that cord cells are more potent, vibrant and higher in number.
There are few FDA-approved "stem cell therapies" and these indications are generally for treating blood cancers, like leukemia. For cord tissue products, all advertisements you hear for "stem cell therapy" on the TV or radio are experimental and not FDA approved. If the indication is not FDA-approved, the term "stem cell therapy" should not be used. The term "human cord tissue product" is a more accurate description for these therapies.
Some human cord tissue products contain a special type of stem cell (call a "mesenchymal stem cell" or MSC). In this case, a patient is receiving stem cells with their therapy. Some human tissue products (such as cord blood or amniotic fluid) contain few, or no, stem cells, although many practices refer to these as "stem cell therapies."
It is important for the consumer who is interested in "stem cell treatments" to know exactly what they are getting and what they are paying for. We encourage patients to ask the physician they are consulting the following questions regarding these therapies:
(1) Do you harvest the cells from my fat or my bone marrow or do you use birth tissue products?
(2) If you use birth tissue products, is it
(a) cord tissue (Wharton's Jelly)?
(b) cord blood?
(c) or amniotic fluid?
(3) What is the name of the company who supplies the product?
(4) Can you show my a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for the product you are using?
(5) Has the supplier you are using been audited by the FDA? If so, what was the outcome of the audit?
(6) Is the supplier you use a blood bank that processes its own product or do they private label someone else's product. If their product is private label, what is the name of the company who processed the product?
(7) How much are you injecting (into my knee, for example)?
(a) is it half a vial? a full vial?
These questions will help you become a more informed consumer. If the practice is unable or unwilling to disclose the information above then you should be cautious and consider seeking a second opinion.