Stem Cell Injections
Stem cells are cells in your body that are able to self renew. They exist in an undifferentiated state meaning they can develop into other cell lines (bone cells, cartilage cells, tendon cells for example). We are able to obtain stem cells from bone marrow (usually the pelvis) or adipose tissue (fat). After a centrifuge process to concentrate these cells, they can then be injected where you are having chronic pain. Studies have shown stem cell injections are safe for use in cases of chronic tendon pain (i.e. tennis elbow, partial rotator cuff tears), knee osteoarthritis and disc disease in the low back. Stem cell injections have been shown to be effective in treating pain and increasing function in some of these cases.
Benefits Of Blood-Derived Stem Cells
Blood-derived stem cells offer several advantages over bone marrow stem cells when they are used for transplants. Using stem cells from peripheral or cord blood, can help the body produce new blood cells at a faster rate than bone marrow stem cells. Blood-derived stem cells are effective in treating a number of conditions, including:
- Sickle cell disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Aplastic anemia
Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also be treated with blood-derived stem cell procedures.
Types Of Blood-Derived Stem Cells
The blood contained in a newborn’s umbilical cord (cord blood) is rich in blood-forming stem cells. Cord blood is similar to adult bone marrow, making it useful for treating blood disorders and certain cancers. Once a child is born, parents may decide to save or donate the child’s cord blood stem cells so that the stem cells can be used to treat diseases in the future. Cord blood transplants are considered a good option if no volunteer stem cell donor is found.
The same blood-forming cells that are found in bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood within the body. Using stem cells from peripheral blood, can help the body produce new blood cells at a faster rate than bone marrow stem cell procedures. A peripheral blood stem cell procedure involves harvesting stem cells directly from the patient’s bloodstream, or the bloodstream of a donor. Usually, there are only a limited amount of stem cells found in the bloodstream. However, substances called growth factors can be administered prior to the procedure to make stem cells grow at a much faster rate in the blood.
Peripheral blood can be obtained from donors through a procedure called apheresis. This procedure can often be performed at a blood donation center.
The Blood-Derived Stem Cell Procedure
Blood-Derived Stem Cell Donation
Stem cell procedures are typically performed on an outpatient basis. A thin tube, or catheter, is inserted into a large vein of the patient or donor. It is then attached to a tube that will carry the blood that is withdrawn to a special machine. The machine separates the stem cells from the rest of the blood, which is then returned to the body. The process may take several hours, and is repeated until enough stem cells are obtained. The stem cells will then be filtered, stored and frozen until the patient is ready for the transplantation.
Blood-Derived Stem Cell Transplant
Following pre-transplant tests, the patient will undergo a process known as conditioning. The portion of the treatment may require chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. A few days after the conditioning process has been completed, the actual transplant takes place. The new stem cells are delivered into the bloodstream through a central venous catheter. This technique helps transport the stem cells through the blood into the bone marrow, initiating the formation of new blood cells. No sedation is necessary and the patient is awake during this process. The infusion usually takes several hours to complete. Within several weeks, the patient’s blood count should start to recover and new blood cells will form.
Risks Of Blood-Derived Stem Cell Procedures
Blood-derived stem cell procedures are considered high risk, and may include life-threatening complications. Complications, risks and recovery vary greatly for each individual based on their age, illness, type of transplant and overall health. Complications that may arise after a blood-derived stem cell procedure include:
- Organ injury
- Stem cell failure or rejection
- Increased risk of developing new cancers
After undergoing a blood-derived stem cell procedure, patients are closely monitored by a doctor for several years.