Cell-based therapy is one of the newest and most innovative advancements in modern medicine. Through the use of stem cells, many conditions are treated through the self-renewal and production of more cells for the treatment of diseases.
The sudden interest in stem cell therapy has created increased consumer demand. As a consequence, many stem cell clinics have sprouted worldwide that claim to offer this unique therapy.
Not all medical centers are equal however, and many operate unethically. This article is going to give you 3 critical questions you must ask before choosing a clinic. This information can empower you in making a better choice. Knowledge is essential, and when it comes to stem cell therapy the more a consumer knows, the higher the likelihood they will have in making the best decision for choosing the best stem cell clinic for their treatment.
Fundamentals of Stem Cell Treatment
Stem cells are somewhat analogous to the stem of a plant in the sense that everything sprouts from the stem and differentiates into different parts such as leaves, bark, flowers and seeds. The theory behind the use of stem cells in treating diseases is based on the idea that stem cells can morph into different types of cells. Their other ability is to indirectly stimulate regeneration in local tissues, as well as reduce the level of inflammation. These cells are then believed to regenerate tissues of the body and heal disease, similar to the example of the plant.
Diseases Treated With Stem Cell Therapy
Early uses of stem cell therapy involved the use of stem cells in bone marrow transplantation, making those types of stem cells the first to be identified. Thousands of people throughout the world have been treated with stem cells for diseases like leukemia and cancers of the blood.
Since then, stem cell clinics have used the same theory to attempt to treat many other diseases with varying degrees of success. Regenerative medicine centers in Europe have been treating patients for a wide array of diseases that include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Trophic ulcers
- Arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Liver cirrhosis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Stroke complications
- Post-irradiation rectovaginal fistulas
- Pancreatic disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Diabetes foot complications
- Erectile dysfunction
- Dementia/cognitive decline
How to Spot Stem Cell Clinic Fraud
While many people are reported to have experienced excellent results with stem cell treatment, there are also many unfortunate stories. Opportunistic fraudsters have taken advantage of some vulnerable patients with serious consequences to their health in addition to the loss of money.
Choosing a stem cell clinic requires knowledge of many concepts of cell-based therapy in order to avoid similar situations. This gives the patient or caregiver insight into the procedure and the ability to differentiate the reputable clinics from fraudulent operations that operate unethically.
3 Vital Questions You Must Ask Before Choosing a Stem Cell Health Center
The following questions are designed to educate you on the stem cell treatment process so that you are informed when asking questions while choosing a clinic:
1. What is being injected during stem cell treatment?
Stem cell treatments involve an injection of a cell-based product. These are substances that are promoted to heal tissues and manage diseases, and can include items like stem cells, platelet-rich plasma and other products like extracellular matrices that are derived from the patient (autologous) or from another person (allogeneic).
An increasingly serious problem with fraudulent stem cell clinics is that they claim to offer stem cell treatment but the cells are either not alive or nonfunctional.
When asking about what types of stem cells the clinic uses, it is important to understand what types they match to each treatment.
Many clinics such as Swiss Medica in Europe offer a wide variety of cell products that include adult stem cells and stromal vascular fraction products (SVF) that contain various stem and progenitor cells, immune cells, fibroblasts and other types of cells that are promoted as being helpful in the process of regeneration, reducing inflammation and relieving pain.
2. Are the treatment providers qualified?
There are varying degrees of qualification among the professionals offering stem cell treatments. Since this is a new field, finding quality physicians can be difficult and there is limited training at present in the university education system.
There are many types of treatment providers currently offering stem cell treatments. Therapists such as alternative healthcare practitioners or naturopaths fall under a wide umbrella of therapists offering regenerative medicine, with some entering the stem cell field in recent years. They often offer treatments at unregulated clinics performing major operations such as spinal injections for which they may not have the appropriate training. Since there is no standard training for injections, many of these therapists may not have the knowledge to handle any complications that may arise.
Some licensed medical providers, such as nurse practitioners, have undergone approximately half the training of a certified doctor. In some cases, these people are better equipped to provide treatments, however there are complex decision-making skills in critical situations that require physician-level training.
The best-case scenario in most instances would be a physician with basic injection skills and training in a practice like sports/physical medicine or orthopedic surgery. When choosing a clinic it is essential that such certified professionals with high levels of training are available to monitor the procedures and provide recommendations in the event of complications.
Another useful vetting procedure is to confirm if the doctors working in the clinic are part of any sort of regenerative medicine or tissue engineering society. Memberships in groups like this signify that the doctors are keeping their education current, and that the treatments are up to standard with the latest technology.
3. Where will they be injecting the treatment?
The site of the injection is of paramount importance to ensure a successful treatment. Some clinics inject the cells intravenously (IV) with the idea that the cells navigate to the treatment area, which is known as ‘homing’. Other clinics inject them directly into the site that has issues, to increase the local effect.
On-site injection also has varying degrees of complexity depending on the specific parts of the body part being treated. Spinal injections are some of the most complex of all due to the interaction of the nervous system with various parts of the body. For these reasons and more, specialized knowledge is required to determine the best injection site that will bring the most successful treatment.
Top questions to ask concern the efficacy of generalized IV treatments for localized conditions, such as arthritis of the knee, hip, shoulder or ankle. Additional queries should concern the complexities of the treatment site and the specific location receiving the injections.
A Final Word on Choosing the Best Stem Cell Health Center
There are many questions to ask when choosing a stem cell treatment provider. Since knowledge is power, more information leads to more questions and this is helpful in the selection process.
The most important information required by any patient or caregiver encompasses the 3 top questions discussed in this article. They include: (1) What is being injected? (2) Who is doing the injections? and (3) Where is the treatment being administered?
Armed with specialized knowledge, seekers of cell-based therapy are equipped with the information necessary to ask the right questions and assess if the doctors are qualified through their responses. This procedure will make it much easier to dismiss the fraudulent clinics and to find the best stem cell treatment provider for the highest degree of success.