What are autoimmune diseases?
The body’s immune system is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. In order for the immune system to function properly, it needs the ability to tell the difference between what’s you and what’s foreign. When the immune system cannot determine what’s you or what’s foreign it attacks normal cells by mistake. The result of these misguided attacks on your own body causes the damage we know as autoimmune disease. The body parts that are affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 known types.
Over 23.5 million people in America suffer from autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are also a leading cause of death and disability. Examples of autoimmune diseases that may respond to stem cells include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and lupus.
Can Stem Cell studies help treat patients with autoimmune diseases?
Currently, autoimmune conditions are treated with immune suppressive agents such as steroids, methothrexate, cyclosporine, gold, and more recently infliximab (Remicade). Despite inducing temporary improvement, these approaches possess the possibility of long-term adverse effects, as well as need for life-long treatment.
Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by these diseases. The Auto-immune Stem Cell Clinical studies are being studied for their efficacy in improving the complications in patients with all types of autoimmune diseases, through the use of stem cells. These procedures may help patients who don’t respond to typical drug treatment.
Frequently Asked Autoimmune Stem Cell Questions
- What are Autoimmune Diseases?
The body’s immune system is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. In order for the immune system to function properly, it needs the ability to tell the difference between what's you and what's foreign. When the immune system cannot, it attacks normal cells by mistake. The result of these misguided attacks is what is known as autoimmune disease.
- What are the common types of Autoimmune Diseases?
Today, over 23.5 million people suffer from over eighty different types of known autoimmune diseases. The most common autoimmune diseases are:
- Lupus - A disease when the body's immune system, which normally functions to protect against foreign invaders, becomes hyperactive, forming antibodies that attack normal tissues and organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and blood.
- Multiple Sclerosis - A disease in which the immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerves. The damage affects the brain and spinal cord.
- Type I Diabetes - A disease in which your immune system attacks the cells that make insulin, a hormone needed to control blood sugar levels. As a result, your body cannot make insulin. Without insulin, too much sugar stays in your blood. Too high blood sugar can hurt the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth. But the most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease.
- Crohn’s Disease - Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a disease that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn's (krohnz) disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of IBD.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis - A disease in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints throughout the body.
- Alopecia areata - The immune system attacks hair follicles. It usually does not threaten health, but it can greatly affect the way a person looks.
- Autoimmune hepatitis - The immune system attacks and destroys the liver cells. This can lead to scarring and hardening of the liver, and possibly liver failure.
- Celiac disease - A disease in which people can't tolerate gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, and barley, and also some medicines. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that have gluten, the immune system responds by damaging the lining of the small intestines.
- Graves' disease (overactive thyroid) - A disease that causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.
- Hashimoto's disease (underactive thyroid) - A disease that causes the thyroid to not make enough thyroid hormone.
- Psoriasis (suh-REYE-uh-suhss) - A disease that causes new skin cells that grow deep in your skin to rise too fast and pile up on the skin surface.
- What are common symptoms of people suffering from Autoimmune Diseases?
With over 80 diffeent types of Autoimmune Diseases there are hundreds of symptoms, the most common symptoms are:
- Weakness, trouble with coordination, balance, speaking, and walking
- Cold hands or feet
- Blurred vision
- Itchy skin
- Painful, stiff, swollen, and deformed joints
- Hair Loss
- Trouble swallowing
- What are stem cells?
Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can be described as "shape shifters." These cells have the ability to change or “differentiate” into other types of cells. Stem cells are at the center of a new field of science called regenerative medicine. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes and more.
- What are the different types of stem cells?
StemGenex offers stem cell therapy using Adult stem cells only. There are four known types of stem cells:
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
The use of adult stem cells in research and therapy is not as controversial as the use of embryonic stem cells, because the production of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of an embryo. Additionally, in instances where adult stem cells are obtained from the intended recipient, the risk of rejection is essentially non-existent. Consequently, more US government funding is being provided for adult stem cell research. This is why StemGenex offers stem cell studies using Adult stem cells only.
- Embryonic Stem Cells - derived from embryos
These cells require specific signals to differentiate to the desired cell type. If they are simply injected directly, they will differentiate into many different types of cells, resulting in a tumor derived from this abnormal pluripotent cell development (a teratoma). The directed differentiation of ES cells and avoidance of transplant rejection are just two of the hurdles that ES cell researchers still face. StemGenex does not use embryonic stem cells.
- Fetal Stem Cells - derived from aborted fetuses
Have developed further than embryonic stem cells and are a little more specialized – their options are slightly more limited. However, they can still produce most types of cell in the body. StemGenex does not use fetal stem cells.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) - from some parts of the human body
These stem cells are engineered from older, fully specialized cells – for example, skin cells, which are limited naturally to being only skin cells. Scientists encourage these limited cells to act like embryonic stem cells again, with the ability to become any type of human cell. This is a complex technique that has only recently been developed and is the subject of much ongoing research. StemGenex does not use induced pluripotent stem cells.
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
- What is a stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering. The ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent generations with variable degrees of differentiation capacities, offers significant potential for generation of tissues that can potentially replace diseases and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects.
- How could stem cells help in Autoimmune Diseases?
StemGenex is currently studying adipose stem cell therapy as a new alternative to help manage the complications of Autoimmune Diseases. The stem cells harvested from a patient have the potential to replace countless cells of the body. These undifferentiated cells may heal the body by replacing ones plagued with disease or the inability to produce a healthy immune system response by regenerating healthy new cells that can.
- How are stem cells administered for Auto-Immune Diseases?
StemGenex is studying potential ways to directly target the conditions and complications themselves. These studies consist of multiple ways to deliver the highest amount of activated stem cells to the areas patients need them most. When stem cells are studied through StemGenex, as potential therapy for Autoimmune diseases, there are multiple ways they can be administered:
- Intravenous – injected into the vein
- Direct Injections – injected directly into the site that needs repair. i.e., muscles and tendons
- Intranasal – administration to access a highly vascular pathway of the nose to encourage more stem cells to travel past the blood brain barrier.
- Should we be researching stem cells?
Yes. Scientists around the world believe there is enough evidence to suggest that stem cells hold real potential as a therapy for Autoimmune Diseases. This evidence comes from a multitude of early clinical studies. They believe that it is now time for a concerted effort in stem cell research and an international effort to support clinical studies of stem cells for Autoimmune Diseases.
- Are stem cells an FDA approved therapy for Autoimmune Disease?
No. There are currently no FDA approved stem cell therapies for Autoimmune disease. All stem cell therapies for Autoimmune disease are currently ‘unproven’, ‘experimental’ therapies. This means that the FDA does not know whether stem cells are effective for people with Autoimmune disease. The only way to determine the effectiveness of stem cell therapy is through the type of clinical studies and trials which are currently being conducted in the US.
- How effective might stem cells be?
One of the goals of StemGenex, through our stem cell studies, is to understand what a particular stem cell therapy might be able to achieve. For example, does it have the potential for slowing the disease's progression, replacing damaged cells and memories, or both? With this goal in mind, StemGenex continues to study these diseases and the full effect of stem cell therapy on each disease. Anecdotally, these results have been overwhelmingly positive but there is more that needs to be done to determine the exact effectiveness of these therapies.
- If I received a stem cell transplant, how long would it take to work?
After stem cells have been administered into someone’s body they have to make their way to the correct place (e.g. area of damage) and then have their desired effect. This process takes time and although it is difficult to predict exactly how long, it is likely that it will take several weeks or months on average to see the full desired effect.
- Could a stem cell therapy be repeated?
Yes, a stem cell therapy may be repeated. Current studies indicate the strong possibility of a cumulative effect from multiple stem cell therapies a patient received for their condition. Long-term studies will attempt to better understand this in detail.
- Could a stem cell therapy be used at the same time as other therapies?
We don’t know yet. This will not be studied in early clinical trials, as this would make it very difficult to measure the true effects of the stem cell therapy. However, a combination therapy may be effective for Autoimmune disease and is likely to be studied in the future.