Misinformation surrounding amniotic, cord blood, placenta stem cell therapy

Ross Hauser, MD.,Danielle R. Steilen-Matias, MMS, PA-C

There is a great amount of misinformation surrounding “amniotic stem cell therapy,” and “umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy.” We hope in this article we can help you understand what these treatments are and what these treatments are not. These treatments can help people, however, at this time we choose not to offer them.

The primary reason we do not offer these products is that we do not find them to be more effective or economically viable to the patient than the utilization of the patient’s own stem cells (which we rarely offer) and because we find simple dextrose Prolotherapy and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) to be effective treatments which, in our observations, yield similar if not better results.

There is also a question as to whether this is actually stem cell therapy. It is an injection and then there is a debate as to what is it an injection of?

In many of our patients, we find the goals of treatment can be achieved without the use of stem cell therapy. How can we say that? More than twenty-eight years of clinical observation.

If there are no stem cells, why are they called stem cell therapy? That’s a good question.

Sometimes contaminated batches of amniotic/placenta/umbilical cord blood material get out.

On December 20, 2018, numerous news outlets reported that 12 people were hospitalized during the course of 2018 because of contaminated umbilical cord stem cell therapy injections. This story first appeared in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), (1) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control.

These are talking points from the CDC report:

Reports of contamination are of course also concerning and warrant attention. Contamination warnings are not limited to stem cell treatments, most recently romaine lettuce and other meat and food products have been recalled for contamination.

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. However, growth factor remnants remain.

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?

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 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. Some websites simply disappeared.

Clearly, 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:

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…

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 the injection of a dextrose-based solution, 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 has shown that:

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

Of obvious interest to doctors and researchers is how to make stem cells more viable and effective 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 work better if they are in a glucose-rich environment. Here is an example of the research.

More than 27 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.

Do you have a question about stem cell therapy?
Get help and Information from our Caring Medical staff

1 Notes from the Field: Infections After Receipt of Bacterially Contaminated Umbilical Cord Blood–Derived Stem Cell Products for Other Than Hematopoietic or Immunologic Reconstitution — United States, 2018. Weekly / December 21, 2018 / 67(50);1397–1399
2 Mischen BT, Follmar KE, Moyer KE, Buehrer B, Olbrich KC, Levin LS, Klitzman B, Erdmann D. Metabolic and functional characterization of human adipose-derived stem cells in tissue engineering. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. 2008 Sep 1;122(3):725-38.  [Google Scholar]
3 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 [Google Scholar]


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