Aging – it’s the boogeyman many of us fear above all others. The fear of aging, and its effects on the human body, has spawned an incredibly diverse, multi-billion dollar industry that runs the gamut from hair dye to wrinkle removing creams, and even plastic surgery. There’s a new option available that promises to be even more effective than surgery, without the need to go under the knife – stem cells.
Stem cells can be used to provide an anti-aging treatment, and may eventually help us turn back the clock on our bodies entirely, not just reduce the signs of time’s passage. What should you know about stem cells and their anti-aging capabilities?
What Are Stem Cells?
First, let’s discuss stem cells. What are they? Where do they come from? Are they still controversial? To address the last question first, no, they are no longer controversial. This is because we’ve developed a wide range of new sources of these cells, and they are not harvested from embryos any longer. What are these sources? One of the most common (but least effective) is your own body. The other (and far more potent) source is from umbilical cord tissue and umbilical cord blood.
However, what are these cells, really? Actually, they’re nothing more than the foundation of the human body’s repair and regeneration system. Stem cells are present before any other cell types emerge during the development of an embryo. They also persist throughout our lives, although their number and efficacy dwindle with age.
Stem cells are the key to bodily health – these shape-shifters are able to transform themselves into any other type of cell in the body, although some are better adapted to become specific types of tissue than are others. With that being said, stem cells of one type have been observed to transform into a very different type of tissue when the need arises.
Stem cells heal. They repair. They rebuild tissue ranging from bone material to tendons, and ligaments, blood vessels and even neurons like those in your brain.
How Are Stem Cells Being Used to Combat Aging?
So, how are stem cells being used to help fight the aging process? Actually, there are quite a few different ways, including available treatments on the market and those being explored in laboratories around the world.
In terms of conventional treatments, IV infusions of stem cells offer anti-aging benefits. The primary advantage here is that such an infusion helps rebuild the depleted levels of stem cells in your body. Once they have multiplied and spread throughout the body, they go to work repairing and rejuvenating everything from lost cartilage in your joints to the elasticity of your skin, and a great deal more. Stem cells are able to combat the signs of aging at the cellular level, throughout your entire body.
In terms of emerging use, there’s a great deal of research into using stem cells to target not the entire range of bodily tissues as they age, but to stop aging before it even begins. In an article for The Harvard Gazette, Lee Rubin, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s Therapeutic Screening Center pointed out,
“Particular tissues – nerve cells appear to be one – somehow signal to others that it’s time to age. This raises the prospect that aging might be reversed by treating these key tissue categories, rather than designing individual treatments for the myriad tissue types that make up the body.”
Rubin’s claims are backed up by findings in research by Amy Wagers, PhD and cardiologist Richard Lee, which was instrumental in identifying the GDF11 protein, as well as the use of stem cells to affect this protein and create dramatically more youthful hearts in test mice. Wagers noted,
“It’s been observed for many, many years that when aging occurs, it affects multiple body systems in a semi-synchronous way. This suggests that there may be some common signal that drives the body’s response to getting older.”
Key Benefits of Using Stem Cells to Fight Aging
While the use of stem cells to stop or even reverse the aging process is a long way off, the fact remains that stem cell therapy can offer a host of benefits today. Some of the key outcomes of fighting aging with stem cell therapy include:
- Improved skin tone and elasticity
- Fewer or no age spots
- Reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Improved joint health and better range of movement
- Improved energy and stamina
The Right Type of Stem Cells
If the benefits of using stem cells to fight aging sound attractive to you, there’s something you should understand before seeking out treatment. That is, there are several types of stem cells in use today, and they are not all created equal.
Allogeneic vs. Autologous
In human treatments, you will find both autologous stem cells and allogeneic stem cells. Autologous stem cells are harvested from your own body, but this makes them far less effective. Allogeneic stem cells are harvested from donated umbilical cord blood and tissue, and are much more effective at reversing the signs of aging in your body. To understand why, you need to understand more about the effects of aging on your body’s stem cells.
The Effects of Age on Your Own Stem Cells
It has been noted for many years that the number of stem cells within the human body, and their energy level and effectiveness drop as we age. Stem cells, while being self-renewing, eventually die. The self-regeneration process actually leads to the development of mutations over time that result in cellular death.
Those same mutations make aged stem cells far less effective at their jobs (and may be one reason for the aging process in the first place). Allogeneic stem cells sourced from umbilical cord blood are young, energetic, and have a lifetime of self-renewal ahead of them, though, meaning they offer the most effective anti-aging treatment.
In the end, stem cells might not be able to turn back the hands of time completely just yet, but they can definitely help you look and feel younger and healthier. With that being said, it is crucial to work with a medical professional that uses only allogeneic stem cells in the treatments offered.