Article at a Glance
- Stem cells, derived from various sources (like body fat), have the ability to differentiate into almost any cell type.
- These unique cells are being used to rejuvenate facial skin, repair articular cartilage and slow overall aging.
- Stem cell treatments are currently available at many longevity clinics.
What Are Stem Cells?
Cells are the basic building blocks of all living organisms. These cells are usually limited in their ability to replicate themselves.
Stem cells are unique because they have the ability to differentiate into almost any body tissue type. They have the potential to replace dead body tissues by simply differentiating into the required form [R]. For example, stem cells can be stimulated to regenerate nerves and restore function to a limb after paralysis.
Stem cells all share two characteristics:
- The ability to make exact replicas of themselves (self-renewal)
- The replicated copies must be able to further develop into specialized cells (differentiation)
Nevertheless, different types of stem cells vary in their replicative abilities [R].
Stem cells can be derived from various sources including bone marrow (hematopoietic), the inner part of a developing embryo (embryonic), amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord.
The method of sourcing stem cells most widely used today is by extracting them from fat (adipose) cells through a process known as subcutaneous lipoaspiration.
Stem Cells, Aging, and the Science of Longevity
The ability of stem cells to form basically any body cell type is being studied with a view to improving health and therefore promoting longevity. Below are some of the ways in which stem cell therapy could be applied to slow the physiological process of aging.
Articular Cartilage Repair and Bone Healing
Arthritis has long been an issue that’s both debilitatingly painful and difficult to treat. However, stem cells appear to be a promising modality in addressing the cartilage loss that’s at the root of arthritis and in improving functionality and decreasing pain.
In a study that compared the benefits of hyaluronic acid injections of arthritic knees with and without stem cells, the group that received high doses of stem cells had better scores on pain and functionality tests [R].
Stem cells have also been found to heal cartilage, in addition to reducing pain and improving functionality, as revealed in a study that did laparoscopic follow up of patients two years after stem cell injections [R].
Mesenchymal stem cell injections are currently in use to regenerate lost articular cartilage. A number of people who received stem cell therapy showed more significant overall improvements compared to others who underwent traditional treatment protocols [R].
Stem Cell Facials
Although still not fully research-backed, the application of stem cells to facial skin to reduce physical signs of aging has gained strong momentum. Topical stem cell preparations can be applied to the face to promote collagen and elastin proliferation, both of which are vital to maintaining healthy skin [R].
A number of wellness and longevity clinics currently offer these treatments as an alternative to getting botulinum toxin (Botox) shots. Advantages of stem cell facials over botox include that stem cells don’t lead to the facial muscle paralysis that botox can, and there’s no risk of injection site issues.
Restrictions on Stem Cell Research and Therapy
Although stem cell treatments may hold a lot of promise, reports of serious adverse effects have been made [R].
In the US, the FDA has strict criteria for determining the safety status of various stem cell products available for use [R]. As such, research and availability of stem cell products is more restricted compared to outside the US where the policy guarding their use is more relaxed.
Although stem cell research is still relatively in its infancy, significant advances are being made to deliver safe and effective therapies that could promote skin rejuvenation and repair aged body tissue.
If you would like to learn more about how stem cell treatments could benefit you, take a look at our directory for a list of longevity clinics offering these treatments.
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