Stem Cell Treatments in Thailand: 10 Things You Need to Know

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10 Things You Need to Know about Stem Cell Treatments in Thailand

1. What is stem cell therapy?

Stem Cell Therapy is a medical treatment of a condition utilising human stem cells.

There are Conventional Stem Cell Therapies and Unconventional Stem Cell Therapies.  Conventional Stem Cell Therapies have been used to treat a wide variety of leukemias, lymphomas and other non-cancerous conditions of the blood, i.e., sickle cell therapy.  This kind of stem cell therapy is the basis for “bone marrow treatments” and has been conducted for many decades.

Unconventional Stem Cell Therapies are those treatments using human stem cells to alleviate specific conditions not part of the recognised list of conditions responding to stem cell therapies.

2. What are stem cells?

Stem cells are a special kind of human cell that posses two profoundly important characteristics:

  1. The capacity to replicate themselves to become stem cells
  2. The capacity to differentiate into any other kind of human cell

These two characteristics explain many of the potential therapeutic benefits attributed to stem cells.  Stem cells in every human body, retain the ability to replicate to one degree or another throughout the life of the body.  It is true that younger stem cells have a greater capacity to replicate than older stem cells.  A stem cell’s capacity to differentiate or transform into other kinds of human cells explains the wide ranging benefits of circulating stem cells.

Stem Cells are also the source of large number of substances molecular biologists call “growth factors.”  These growth factors are released from circulating stem cells upon detecting the presence of “inflammation.”  Stem cells also have the ability to migrate to or home in on areas in the body where inflammation is located.  These two physiological characteristics are thought to be the basis of the potent anti-inflammatory effects witnessed by doctors and scientists working with stem cells.

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3. How are stem cells used in treatments?

The conventional use of stem cells for therapy is via the transplantation of “bone marrow” from a “matched donor” to a “recipient” under very controlled circumstances.  The process is expensive, complicated and risky and therefore is only used for those suffering from conditions for which no other suitable treatments.

In brief, a bone marrow transplants begins with finding a biological match in a donor.  Bone marrow from a donor must match the recipient in many ways.  If a transplant was not a biological match, the recipient of the transplant would become very ill and possibly die.  The recipient of the bone marrow transplant must have their own bone marrow destroyed prior to receiving the transplant.  This serves two purposes, namely destroying the recipients bone marrow removes the “source of their disease” (leukemia is cancer of the blood forming stem cells that originate in the bone marrow) and it minimises the “rejection of the new transplanted stem cells (or bone marrow)”.

The process of the destroying the recipients bone marrow makes the person very susceptible to life-threatening infections, therefore require the recipient to remain in a sterile environment until their new bone marrow (transplanted from a matched donor).

The bone marrow of the donor is extracted from their hip bone.  It is a surgical procedure.  Once the bone marrow is removed and then prepared for surgical implantation.

The unconventional use of stem cells are conducted in a number of ways.  Perhaps the most common way stem cells are used in unconventional ways is as follows:

Stem cells are collected from the patient’s own tissues.  They can be extracted from the patient’s own tissues (adipose, blood, and or bone marrow) and then prepared through culturing and expansion in such a way to increase the volume and or specificity of effect.

Stem cells can also be extracted from donated tissues from others.  The most common donated tissues used to prepare stem cells for unconventional uses are:

  • Umbilical cord blood
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Extracted teeth
  • Placenta

Once the stem cells are extracted from the donor tissues, they pass through a number of processes to prepare them for injection to a patient.  To greatly over-simplify this process, the extracted tissues are carefully inspected through lab testing to make sure the tissues are free of disease and defects, they are separated according to stem cell type and they are grown or expanded to increase total numbers of stem cells.

Once these stem cells are cultured and expanded they can be used for treatment.  Stem cells are usually introduced via “IV Therapy.”  Stem cells are placed in a saline solution and then dripped into the blood stream through an intravenous needle.

Re: Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cells are being used far less often today as a result of studies that demonstrated that the relative safety of using stem cells derived from non-embryonic tissues.  This was a very welcome development give the obvious ethical concerns of using tissues derived from dead fetuses and the awareness that using stem cells derived from embryos presented patients with significant risks (development of teratomas).

4. What kinds of conditions may respond to stem cell therapy?

Many physicians and scientists are using stem cell therapy for the treatment of diseases characterised by low level chronic inflammation.  Their reasons for such optimism have been described in detail in a number of position papers (see references).  In brief, these doctors have said that the anti-inflammatory effects of a particular kind of stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells) are most responsible for many of the beneficial effects stem cells on chronic illnesses.

The following is a list of chronic diseases characterised by low-level inflammation:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disorder
  • Heart Disease
  • Mood Disorders
  • Obesity/Metabolic Syndrome
  • Many more
Here is a link to studies that report the Benefits of IV Stem Therapies.
http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/s12916-015-0426-0.pdf

5. How are stem cells used to treat local conditions?

Stem cell therapy can also be used as an injection to create specific local effects.  For example, some doctors inject stem cells into soft tissues to enhance tissue repair (injections into the face to rejuvenate the skin and in and around joints to alleviate joint pain secondary to arthritis).  The doctors performing these treatments report high degrees of success and minimal side effects.

6. Is stem cell therapy safe?

Most researchers agree that the use of IV Mesenchymal Stem Cells does not present significant immediate negative side effects.  As mentioned previously, mesenchymal stem cells have strong anti-inflammatory effects which blocks the potential for immediate “tissue rejection reactions.”

It should be said that there is less agreement about the potential of long term health risks.  It is accurate to say that it is too early to know because of the lack of long-term studies, to attest to the long-term safety of IV Stem Cells.  It is also accurate to say there is very little evidence to suggest that long-term harmful effects.

If you have specific questions about stem cell therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to answer whatever questions you may have and or direct you to doctors that have clinical experience in using stem cells to treat specific conditions and or enhance rejuvenation.

7. How soon after treatment are benefits apparent?

For the majority of patients undergoing either local injections or IV injections, the beneficial effects are noticed within a few weeks.  For many patients the first effects noticed are improved sleep and reduced pain and discomfort.  As time goes on, patients report improved skin texture and elasticity and greater flexibility and function in the joints receiving the treatment.

8. How long will a person benefit from a single stem cell treatment?

The most accurate answer to that question today is “we don’t know.”  Although the doctors we have talked to have opinions based on their clinical experience will say the patient receives benefits that continue for many months and possibly even years, they also admit, they do not have long-term studies demonstrating that yet.

Can stem cells cure me of any specific condition?

The word “cure” is not used often in the context of stem cell treatments.  The primary reason for this is that the conditions that have thus far proved most ameliorable to treatment have been those characterised by inflammation.  In those conditions, the patient frequently improves substantially but the effects are almost always temporary, in general lasting months and not years.

9. Can stem cells be used to as an adjunctive therapy with other treatments?

Yes.  Stem cell therapy is being increasingly used in conjunction with other treatments.  One example is the use of stem cell therapy as part of an integrative medicine approach in the treatment of sport’s injuries.  Typical sport’s medicine treatments may include surgical repair for a torn muscle, like a rotator cuff, followed by physical rehabilitation exercise and physical therapy.  Doctors in Thailand will also use localised injection of MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) into the injured areas as an adjunctive treatment following the surgery or in some cases, instead of the surgery.

Stem cell therapy is also being used with topical skin treatments to enhance their rejuvenative effects.

10. What do stem cell treatments in Thailand cost?

The cost of stem cell therapy varies tremendously depending upon the kind of stem cells, the volume of stem cells, the method of treatment, the amount of follow-up and a number of other factors.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have specific questions about Stem Cell Treatment in Thailand.

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