Amniotic Stem Cell Therapy

Ross Hauser, MD

This article will help you understand amniotics stem cell treatments.

  • The first thing that should be pointed out about amniotic stem cell therapy is that there are NO stem cells in the treatment.
  • If it is not stem cells, why is it called amniotic stem cell therapy? That’s a good question.
    • Many “stem cell” companies buy amniotic tissue from tissue banks. The tissue banks get the afterbirth materials from donor mothers following a C-section birth. This material is then put up for sale.
    • The “stem cell” companies buys this material and must process the amniotic membrane and fluid for preservation and to remove disease and other unwanted hazards.
    • The processing destroys the amniotic stem cells. “Amniotic stem cell therapy,” therefore can not contain living stem cells.
    • The “healing” factors of amniotic tissue treatment is the growth factors found in the remnant of the extracellular matrix of the amniotic tissue and well as remnant natural hyaluronic acid. (Learn more about  Extracellular matrix (ECM) and cell signalling).

Amniotic “stem cells” marketed in many chiropractic offices are, in reality, micronized amniotic fluid. The micronization process takes amniotic fluid, freeze-dries it, and then processes it. The process kills the stem cells. NO live stem cells are present.

Many people attend seminars on the benefits of amniotic stem cell therapy. These seminars are often conducted by a chiropractor whose presentation includes a segment on how the attendees of the seminar have joint pain because their own stem cells are too few, too weak, too feeble and too old to repair the damage.

The great irony of this argument is if you have been told that your own stem cells are too few, too weak, too feeble and too old, how does the amniotic tissue then work if it has no new stem cells in it?

  • The entire concept of how “amniotic stem cell therapy,” works is that it relies on the remnant growth factors not donated living stem cells. The remnant growth factors in the donated amniotic tissue stimulating your own stem cells to work.

For amniotic tissue treatment to work, it must work at the expense of debunking its own marketing claim that your stem cells are too few, too weak, too feeble and too old stem cells to work.

Many people leave stem cell seminars convinced that their own stem cells are no good and that donated amniotic stem cells will help them with their chronic joint pain. This is inaccurate. So much so that one company was asked to stop their current marketing practices by curtailing claims of what amniotic tissue was and could do by the FDA’s Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations unit. Other amniotic stem cell companies followed suit and put up FDA disclaimers about their amniotic fluid products.

Cleary amniotic stem cell therapy is not donated stem cells working in your damaged joint, It is in fact growth factors that activate your own stem cells.

The amniotic stem cell fact check:

  • The amniotic fluid contains an abundance of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that originate from the fetus.
    • Actually the amniotic fluid does contains an abundance of mesenchymal stem cells in its nature pre-donated state.
    • FACT: They are all killed in the processing.
  • Amniotic stem cells have a higher expansion potential than the ones derived from the bone marrow which means that more new tissue cells can be derived from the amniotic fluid.
    • Actually amniotic stem cells do have a higher expansion potential in their nature pre-donated state.
    • FACT: Unfortunately this benefit is also killed in the processing.
  • These stem cells possess an enhanced stability and plasticity compared to adult stem cells allowing them to develop into healthier cells needed for tissue repair.
    • FACT: Unfortunately this benefit is also killed in the processing.
  • There’s no risk of the patient rejecting the stem cells.
    • FACT: There is no risk because you are not getting any stem cells! 

Growth Factors in stem cell therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

Platelet Rich Plasma is a treatment where you own blood is centrifuged to separate out growth factors found in your blood platelets. This gives us a platelet rich plasma that is injected back into your damaged joints.

The key to regenerative medicine is growth factors. Adipose (obtained from a patient’s fat) stem cells contain live growth factors. Bone marrow stem cells contain live growth factors, Platelet rich plasma (PRP) contains live growth factors. Micronized amniotic fluid contains growth factors, NOT stem cells.

Initial comparison…

  • Adipose (fat) stem cells contain live growth factors and live stem cells.
  • Bone marrow stem cells contain live growth factors and live stem cells.
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) contains live growth factors.
  • Micronized amniotic fluid contains processed growth factor material.

Is your own blood just as effective or better than amniotic material?

Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy is an injection of growth factors drawn from your own blood. In our practice this is not a stand alone treatment. It is supported by injection of dextrose, the treatment best known as Prolotherapy. This is a comprehensive program to treat the whole joint. This is best explained in the video below as demonstrated on a patient’s knee.

With PRP Prolotherapy, we draw your blood from your arm. The blood is then centrifuged to separate the healing platelets for easier collecting and processed right in the office. These concentrated platelets are then injected back into the problem area(s).

There is a long list of research papers on the benefits of healing degenerative joint disease with PRP healing factors. This is covered in my article: What is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?

Briefly, research as shown that:

  • PDGF (Platelet-Derived Growth Factor) found in your own blood initiates connective tissue healing through collagen and protein production.

Stem cells have to eat. Is simple sugar better than amniotic stem cells? How Prolotherapy helps feeds your stem cells

Of obvious interest to doctors and researchers is how to make stem cells more viable and effective once in the diseased joint environment. The answer may be glucose or dextrose, which is the main ingredient used in traditional Prolotherapy injections.

Stem cells have to eat. One of their favorite foods is glucose, simple sugar. Glucose is one of our great energy sources. Doctors and researchers have written for years that stem cells can be activated to workd better if they are in a glucose rich environment. Here is an example of the research.

  • One source of injectable stem cells is adipose (fat) tissue as mentioned above. Adipose-derived stem cells are an excellent source of multipotent stem cells (cells that can transform themselves into other cells, i.e., cartilage) and are capable of differentiating into a variety of other cells that are useful for musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Researchers at Duke University subjected human-adipose-derived stem cells to concentrations of glucose. Of interest in this study was not only did the higher concentrations of glucose cause the stem cells to proliferate (grow), but their differentiation into osteogenic (bone) stem cell lines was only observed when the glucose concentrations were physiologically at normal to high levels.1 In other words, the glucose helped stimulate bone repair.
  • An important paper on stem cell research from Purdue University confirmed the notion that dextrose, especially hypertonic (high level) dextrose is a significant factor in the ability of mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow to proliferate.2
  • The mesenchymal stem cell consumption of glucose increased proportionally with the glucose concentration in the medium. The higher the glucose concentration in the medium, the greater the glucose consumption by the bone marrow stem cells. The primary results note that the higher glucose and serum concentrations appear to produce higher cell populations over time.

25 years of Regenerative medicine, tens of thousands of patients.

Our clinic has been offering regenerative medicine for over 25 years. We have always explored many new healing opportunities for our patients. While amniotic material therapy may provide results for some, we do not offer it because the results are not consistent, the cost is more prohibitive, and many of the claims made are not backed by good science.

1. Mischen BT, Follmar KE. Metabolic and Functional Characterization of Human Adipose-Derived Stem Cells in Tissue Engineering. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 2008;122:725-738. [Pubmed]

2. Deorosan B, Nauman EA. The Role of Glucose, Serum, and Three-Dimensional Cell Culture on the Metabolism of Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Stem Cell International. 2011;  Article ID 429187, 12 pages. Doi:10.4061/2011/429187

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