Old Age and Stem Cells?
Seminars on Stem Cell Therapy
A common sales pitch in many stem cell therapy seminars involves old age and stem cells. These clinics often claim that your stem cells are too old to use, hence you need to use young stem cells from umbilical cords. Is this true? To answer that question we need to first learn more about aging and stem cells.
What Happens to Stem Cells as We Age?
First, it's important to note that you have millions of stem cells that live in your body. They are the repairmen of many tissues, so if you're still alive, they are working. Meaning that wiping out the stem cells in your bone marrow would cause death in weeks to months.
Second, it's been traditionally thought that stem cell number and health declines with age. However, our lab and others have looked at the number of stem cells in the bone marrow with aging. If you exclude really young people and just focus on adults, there isn't a big relationship between stem cell number and age.
Is There an Age Limit to Stem Cell Therapy?
One of the biggest questions I get on old age and stem cells is whether there is an age limit? I can answer that with some of our own published work. We looked at more than 800 patients with knee arthritis who had their own concentrated bone marrow stem cells injected into their joints versus age. We found no relationship between age and outcome, meaning older patients didn't fare any worse than younger patients.
In a second study, what we did find that lead to poorer outcomes was too low a dose of total bone marrow cells (which is also tied to a low stem cell dose). This could be easily overcome by a better bone marrow stem cell draw and processing. Meaning, older cells didn't hamper someone's chances of success, their cells just needed to be concentrated to a certain level.
We're not the only ones to find this relationship between cell dose and outcome from stem cell-based procedures. In fact, others have found it when treating nonhealing bones and low back discs. Hence, getting stem cell therapy to work in older adults is about concentrating their cells.
The upshot on old age and stem cells? While aging does have some impact on stem cells, it doesn't mean you don't have many live and very viable stem cells that can used to help you heal. In the meantime, as shown, stem cell seminar pitches claiming to inject you with millions of live stem cells don't hold water