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An Introduction to Stem Cell injections

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Regenerative medicine is a rapidly growing field of research, and this is largely due to stem cells. Stem Cells are one of the most unique cells living within the human body, and as the field of regenerative medicine advances, physicians and medical professionals are learning ways to harness these stem cells– through stem cell injections, the powerful growth factors that are in this kind of cell can be administered directly to the patients who need them. Stem Cell Injections stand poised to turn what we know about conventional medicine on its head, with more and more research being conducted every year yielding promising results. 

What Are Stem Cells?

You can think of stem cells as the body’s raw materials. Although they are cells, they are unspecialized– this means that they are the cells from which all other cells with specialized functions (like heart cells, liver cells, and nerve cells) are formed. Under appropriate conditions within the human body or in a lab, stem cells have been found to divide into more cells, which are known as daughter cells. Daughter cells then either specialize into another type of cell, or become new stem cells in a process that is known as self-renewal. 

No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types like stem cells. Because of this unique characteristic, stem cell research as a field has increased exponentially year after year. The wide versatility of these cells because of their wide versatility which has caused a marked increase in research year after year, because researchers hypothesize that stem cell technology can advance to the point where it can treat certain conditions. 

What Can Stem Cell Injections Treat? 

Although stem cells show great promise in treating a wide variety of diseases, there is quite a bit of misinformation about them, largely due to the novelty of the field. Stem cell injections are not a panacea, also known as a cure-all, but they do show promise in treating a variety of conditions and diseases. Because stem cells can generate healthy cells, they can often be guided into becoming specific cells– this is done through stem cell injections, and those who perform these therapies practice what is known as regenerative medicine. 

People who might benefit from regenerative medicine therapy include those with the following conditions: 

  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) 
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis

It can replace neurons damaged by the neurological conditions listed above (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Stroke, ALS), which makes it one of the foremost methods of alleviating symptoms in those who suffer from these conditions. Stem cell injections show indications in treating diabetes because it can produce insulin, or could become the cartilage that breaks down in people suffering from arthritis. In reality, with enough time, research, and development, stem cell injections could very easily subvert many of the current medical standards of care. 

There has not yet been a cell type discovered that stem cells could not replicate, which means that there is truly no limit to the types of diseases that could be cured as the study of stem cell injections proliferates. 

How Much Do Stem Cell Injections Cost? 

With all of this information, the next logical question that most people have in regards to stem cell injections is, well, how much it costs? That is somewhat of a complicated question, as it largely depends on the condition that the patient is attempting to have treated. Generally, however, it can range from a few thousand to up to $25,000.  Largely, it depends on what is being treated– orthopedic treatments are generally the least expensive, but as the severity and complexity of the disease increases (say, to Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s), treatment becomes far more expensive.

It is also important to note that stem cell injections are not covered by the majority of medical insurance providers, which means that for most people, stem cell injections or other regenerative medicine therapies would have to be paid out of pocket. Generally, roughly half of all people who undergo stem cell procedures find themselves paying less than $10,000, but this is not always the case. However, generally those who paid higher treatment costs did so because they were getting treated for systemic or complex conditions including MS, Dementia, and Autism. But this is not the only thing that would influence the price point of a stem cell injection– other factors include the type of stem cells used within the protocol, as well as the quantity of cells, the number of treatments required, and the experience of the physician who is performing the procured.ure. 

What to Know When Doing Research 

There are many things that a patient should consider when doing their research on stem cell injections. Because regenerative medicine is one of the newer studies in medical research, there is still much that is not known about it. There are stem cell clinics all around the world who offer treatments for a wide variety of conditions– but many of these people are stretching the truth, if not outright lying about the capabilities of stem cells. It is important for a patient to do research into who will be performing their stem cell injection, and to ensure that they are getting it from a reliable, trustworthy source. 

How Are Stem Cell Injections Performed? 

In order to remain in compliance with FDA regulations, there are two sources for autologous stem cells that can be used in the United States: Adipose (Fat Tissue) or Bone Marrow. Both of these sources involve collecting a sample from the patient and isolating the stem cells and growth factors. The resulting stem cell injection can then be administered to the patient in a variety of ways, which we have outlined below: 

  • Intrathecal-IntraArterial
    • This form of stem cell injection is ideal for neurological conditions because the stem cells are introduced past the blood-brain barrier and directly into the spinal fluid, which enables them to reach the spinal cord and brain and become the corresponding cells. During the procedure, an experienced anesthesiologist injects stem cells into the spinal canal through the lower vertebrae under local anesthesia. The procedure is performed in a positive airflow room under sterile conditions, and the procedure usually takes about thirty minutes. 
  • Intravenous (IV)
    • An intravenous administration is both the safest and the simplest method for delivering a  stem cell injection into the body. Anesthesia is not required, but local anesthesia can be used if desired to lessen the pain of the initial needle prick area. IV Administration of a stem cell injection can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. 
  • Intramuscular (IM)
    • In an intramuscular administration, the stem cells are injected directly into the muscle. Intramuscular implantation is both safe and anesthesia free, though like the IV option, local anesthesia can also be used if desired. 

Who Can Perform a Stem Cell Injection? 

Generally, one should only seek to undergo a stem cell injection when it is administered by a medical professional. Due to the novelty of the field, although many people ‘can’ perform a stem cell injection, it is important for patients to refine their search efforts. It is important to find practices that have years of experience in the field, as it is a good sign that they have dealt with a variety of cases and will be able to give you a straight answer– and you should be wary of any people advertising stem cells as a ‘miracle’ or a ‘cure-all’.

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