Is Stem Cell therapy always effective?

After reading some articles about Stem Cells we can easily understand why many patients view Stem Cells as the modern equivalent of the Fountain of Youth. Because of these articles, many patients believe that Stem Cell therapy is nearly magical in effect. Many clinics only report successful procedures, without informing patients about the failures.

It is necessary to underscore the fact that there is no 100% guarantee of success and at Sport-Med Cracow we check exactly whether the patient is a good candidate for a specific type of Stem Cell therapy over a longer period of time. At Sport-Med Cracow we use a system of 3 groups to categorize patients: good, medium and poor candidates for the procedure. We qualify twice as many patients to the poor and medium groups in comparison to the good candidate group. Unfortunately, this means that there is a smaller pool of appropriate candidates for this type of procedure. While many patients have been able to achieve unusual results and avoid the necessity of surgical operation, it sometimes happens that the procedure is unsuccessful in the group of ‘good’ candidates. Why is this?

Currently many factors can explain why Stem Cell procedures are ineffective in some patients. Doctors have been aware that a procedure that is effective in one patient may be unsuccessful in another. When it comes to Stem Cells the following factors can be significant:

  • Age.
    There are contradictory results for studies related to the impact of age on mature Stem Cells. One set of studies reveals a decrease in the function of Stem Cells in older animals, and another set indicates maintenance of Stem Cell function at a proper level but with fewer mature Stem Cells. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may be that older individuals have fewer adult Stem Cells, and the elderly have Stem Cells that function more weakly.
  • The local microenvironment.
    What is a microenvironment? Let’s imagine a plant in the garden. There is no doubt that the state of the soil, access to water and level of sunlight have influence on growth of a plant in a given location. These factors offer a local microenvironment for the plant. The situation of Stem Cells is similar. The location where they are injected may or may not be appropriate for support of their growth. Factors such as: blood supply to the tissues, excessive acidity in the given area or excessive biomechanical pressure allow for the proper growth of cells. Research on these factors will continue to be conducted for a long time until unequivocal results are available.
  • Medicine.
    It has been observed that some prescription medicines can impede the growth of Stem Cells. There are differences in their interaction between patients, however. For example, some patients taking blood pressure medicine simultaneously do not have difficulty in increasing the number of new Stem Cells, while other individuals may experience a disrupted process. This may be connected with the genetic traits of the individual patient which condition their reaction to some groups of medicines. For years it has also been known that medicines that are well tolerated by some patients can cause strong side effects in others. Probably much time is needed for us to be able to completely understand the interdependency between genetic traits and interactions with medicines. We currently advise our patients to stop taking as many medicines as possible (after prior consultation with a doctor) until their Stem Cells are sent for cultivation.
  • Physical activity.
    Generally speaking, patients with the highest level of physical activity (intensive activity for 5-10 hours weekly) can generate Stem Cells of higher quality than the average person leading a sedentary lifestyle. This has its logical explanation, taking into account that patients with exceptionally high levels of activity have higher growth factors circulating in their bodies and usually suffer less often from conditions such as insulin resistance, which can negatively influence the Stem Cell function.
  • State of health.
    A very clear interdependency has been noted in patients in with poor health with coexisting conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. and their production of a smaller number of Stem Cells compared to individuals in good health.
  • Level of advancement of the disease.
    It has been observed that disease in its more advanced stage is more difficult to treat than mild cases. Sometimes, however, it happens that patients for whom we do not have high expectations have surprisingly good results. For example, patients may be qualified as poor candidates due to their age. Sometimes to our surprise their results after the procedure are surprisingly good, and some patients are even able to mountain climb or ski.
  • Unknown.
    We have not been able to specify all factors influencing the function of our Stem Cells. It is a complex interaction of genetic factors, epigenetic, chemical and environmental factors that can influence cells in a variety of ways.

n the future, doctors performing procedures in regenerative medicine will certainly try to influence these factors. We are carefully observing which patients receive good procedure results, but until now, studies only permit us to approximately determine who has a greater chance of positive response to treatment. They but do not offer information regarding who will certainly respond to therapy.