Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Stem Cells to Fight Ageing?
What is a Stem cell?
Stem cells are specialized human cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types, from muscle cells to brain cells. More importantly, they are also able to repair damaged tissues.
Stem cells have helped us treat and better understand a range of diseases, injuries, and other health-related conditions. It is accepted that they are beneficial in treating infections of the blood; this therapy has already saved the lives of thousands of children battling leukemia. Also, their value can be seen for tissue grafts to treat diseases or injury to the bone, skin, and surface of the eye. All cells with specialized functions were originally stem cells; in other words, they are the body's raw materials.
Under the right conditions, whether in the body or a laboratory, stem cells will divide into what are known as daughter cells. Daughter cells go on to either become new stem cells (renewal of the stem cell population) or become specialized cells (known as differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood, brain, heart muscle, or bone cells. Stem cells are the only cells in the body with this natural ability to generate new cell types.
While the previously mentioned treatments are widely accepted, it is beginning to be understood that cell treatment is useful in a broad range of other medical conditions like,
Autism and other developmental disorders
COPD and lung disease
Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - ALS)
Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Osteoarthritis and other joint conditions
Many detractors are quick to point out that there is, as of yet, little clinical proof of the efficacy of these treatments. But remember Ignaz Semmelweis was ridiculed in the mid-19th century for insisting that doctors wash and disinfect their hands after performing autopsies and that before Louis Pasteur performed his experiments, doctors refused to even believe in the existence of bacteria(germs). So when weighing the pros and cons of stem cell therapy, do not be too quick to accept that a lack of positive evidence equals contrary evidence. All treatments at one stage or another were “new and untested.” And as the so-called anecdotal evidence, from clinics like Revival Clinic and Stem Cells 21, mounts, this supposed lack of positive evidence becomes harder and harder for them to maintain.
Aging Stem Cell, Aging Body
It is a fact that all cells have half-lives, and their natural expiration must be matched by their replacement to avoid the damages of aging, stem cells seem an excellent source for these new replacement cells. Stem cell depletion and aging-related tissue changes in the human body lead to imbalances in tissue stability and a decrease in our regenerative capacity. These changes often lead to destructive diseases, such as autoimmunity, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, depression, neuropathy, obesity, stroke, and tissue degeneration: impaired eyesight and hearing are especially noticeable as symptoms of aging but also a reduction in general muscle and bone strength.
Research has shown a definite correlation between the reduction of stem cells found in the bone marrow and the rate at which people recover from bone fractures. The graph below shows clearly how drastic that reduction in stem cells is going from 1 stem cell out of 10,000 cells in a newborn down to 1 stem cell out of 2,000,000 cells in an older adult.
The importance of stem cells can not be understated because they play a crucial role in our bodies, from creating our organs while we are still in the womb to maintaining stable bodily function throughout our lives. They also possess the ability to travel all over our bodies and adapt themselves to repair almost any damage they encounter. Tissue-specific stem cells are able to change themselves and replace damaged cells in their specific area, thus playing a crucial role in prolonging tissue function. As stem cells age, though, this ability deteriorates, and they lose their ability to differentiate into various cell types. The loss of stem cell populations and activity over time contributes to age-related disease and becomes a root cause of illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc.
Regenerative medicine can inhibit or even reverse many of these health problems. Through the use of our own stem cells or donor replacement cells derived from a stem or progenitor cell, we can restore or rejuvenate tissue and maintain the stability of our body. Stem cells are useful in treating conditions of the immune system, cardiac tissue, central nerve system, articular cartilage, and skeletal muscle; also, research has shown that stem cell therapy could be used to delay cell death and thus prolong lifespan.
Examples of age-related disease
Decrease visual acuity
Muscle strength and fat loss
Decrease Immune function
Aging - the effect on our Nervous system
Age-induced reduction in the number of myosatellite cells and neural stem cells undermines nerve regeneration. Which in turn, is associated with the progressive loss of function and can be aggravated by degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and stroke. At the cellular level, senescence(cell damage) of the central nervous system is accompanied by several changes that impair nerve function, including elevated levels of oxidative stress and oxidative damage associated with proteins and DNA. It has also been linked to difficulty in cellular energy production and a build-up of harmful substances within the cells. Even without considering the increased chance of disease, we are all well aware of the reduced mental acuity and memory that usually accompanies aging.
Where do we get the stem cells from?
The two primary strategies for cell replacement involve
the transplantation of donor tissue and
the internal activation of cell growth.
While tissue can be transplanted directly like any other organ transplant, genetically engineered cells that are designed to release substances needed can also be introduced to promote survival and proliferation. The specialized environment of the brain ensures that neural stem cells (NSCs) self-renew and differentiate but mainly enter the neurons. Thus, understanding the characteristics of NSCs and how they are affected by changes in the body could open the door to exploiting their plasticity for the prevention and treatment of degenerative diseases.
Why use umbilical cord stem cells?
The Healing Oracle team explains, “The umbilical cord fluid is loaded with stem cells. They can treat cancer, blood diseases like anemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body's ability to defend itself”.
This fluid is easily collected and has ten times more stem cells than those obtained from bone marrow. Stem cells from cord blood seldom carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
Since they are the most primitive cells of the body, they are often referred to as “naive” cells. Thus, where tissue re-growth is needed, they exhibit the adaptability to form the cells of any respective organ. For this reason, the recipient’s immune response is less likely to reject the cells.
Stem Cell Replacement as a therapeutic treatment
MSCs can be used therapeutically as allogeneic cells(a.k.a. ‘universal cell,’), a cell that can function in any host. To support this suggestion, it was shown that MSCs did not have Major Histocompatibility Complex(MHC) class II cell markers, but only MHC class I and no co-stimulator molecules. Thus, human Stem cells could not be antigen-presenting cells and would be invisible to the host’s immune system.
MSCs could differentiate into any number of types of cells, for example, cardiac, muscle, cartilage, etc. So this could be therapeutically useful in the treatment of heart attacks (infarction) where a large number of cardiac cells die (apoptosis) due to the ischemia; the replacement of these expired cells would be expected to provide clinical benefit.
How can stem cells help our nervous system?
Recent data suggests that stem cell therapy can reactivate damaged nerve cells and thereby promote functional recovery. These reported improvements show that cell therapy is able to replenish lost cells, protect neuron survival, and encourage their regeneration as well as play a role in overcoming permanent paralysis and sensory loss and restoring neurological function.
Unfortunately, the definitive reason for these improvements has yet to be identified, but previous research implied that possible mechanisms might include the following:
the promotion of blood vessel production, [angiogenesis]
increased nerve cell production, [neuronal differentiation and neurogenesis]
reduced nerve cell damage, [reactive gliosis]
the inhibition of programmed cell death, [apoptosis]
the creation of essential peptides and proteins, [expression of neurotrophic factors]
control of the immune response, [immunomodulatory functions]
and an increase in the ability of nerves to “talk” to each other. [neuronal integration]
Inflammation is one of the sources of aging
Numerous studies have shown that substances like histamine and serotonin in higher levels are an early warning sign for impending illness or disability in the aging populace.
Dr. Calapai says, “Human aging is associated with a vast array of clinical disorders that all relate to the body’s inability to maintain homeostasis. In our bodies, the healing process requires tight control of the acute inflammatory response. When the levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and C-reactive protein are elevated, there is a direct correlation with several chronic diseases of aging such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and physical disability.”
As Dr. Calapai goes on to say, there is no “cure” for aging, but through the use of various stem cell therapies, we can reduce and control the effects. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can modulate the inflammation process and aid in the recovery from disease. Many studies, both in animal and human clinical trials, have demonstrated the ability of stem cells to control inflammation.
“Therefore, the use of stem cells as anti-aging therapies may offer many an alternative method of slowing down or deterring several of the detrimental aspects of aging.”
A healthy habit of supporting your body
The other options for the prevention of age-related diseases are well known. We all understand that physical activity, a healthy diet and the removal of bad habits will allow us to live longer, healthier lives. What is good for the heart is generally good for the body as well.
The scientific proved healthy habits for the body are
Eat a healthier diet
Take better care of yourself
Get more sleep.
Treat underlying conditions.
Dr. Chontirot is the founder of Revival Clinic, is experienced in the fields of stem cell science, gene therapy, molecular biology, immunology and clinical research. She is Board Certified and has a background of study with the University of Queensland and Stanford University. Having published articles in numerous medical and scientific forums she can be considered an expert in this field. Revival Clinic’s unique therapies provide a range of successful treatments for a variety of degenerative diseases that include lupus, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and more.