Stem cell treatment has been a hot topic, and hotly debated treatment method, for over 20 years now. While the controversy surrounding stem cells has largely died away due to the fact that embryonic stem cells are no longer used, there remains a great deal of uncertainty regarding many aspects of this treatment option.
One of the most critical for potential patients to understand is why allogeneic stem cells should be chosen over autologous stem cells. Is there really a difference between these two stem cell types? What makes allogeneic stem cells the better option? What should potential patients know about these stem cells? These are just a few of the questions you will need to answer prior to undergoing any type of stem cell treatment.
Allogeneic Stem Cells vs. Autologous Stem Cells
Allogenic stem cells come from umbilical cord blood or umbilical cord wall stem cells, and do not need to come from a relative or a genetically similar individual. There is also no HLA matching needed, unlike the case of adult allogenic tissue. Umbilical cord stem cells are immune neutral and are not known to elicit immune response from recipient's body.
Autologous stem cells, on the other hand, are your own. They can be harvested from many potential tissue types in your body, including fatty tissue and bone marrow. Because they are your own stem cells, they're completely bioidentical, but they are as old as you are, which means not only are they less active due to age, and less widely available within your body, but there is a greater chance for genetic mutations to have occurred, or toxins to have built up, which could illicit an immune system response.
What Makes Allogeneic Stem Cells the Better Option?
So, if autologous stem cells are your own, and they're completely bioidentical, then why would allogeneic stem cells be the better choice? In most cases, it is because your own stem cells are compromised, or because your bone marrow is incapable of producing stem cells that can withstand the disease ravaging your body. By using allogeneic stem cells rather than your own stem cells, there is a much higher chance that your disease can be improved or eradicated.
What Conditions Can Be Treated with Allogeneic Stem Cells?
Unlike autologous stem cells, allogeneic stem cells can be used to treat a very wide range of conditions. This type of transplant can be used to treat both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, POEMS syndrome, primary amyloidosis, metabolism errors, immune deficiency, chronic leukemia, aplastic anemia, and numerous other diseases. Unsure if you are a good fit? Consult with your physician.
How Are Allogeneic Stem Cells Transplanted?
The first course of action in stem cell transplantation is to secure a source of allogeneic stem cells. This will require locating a source of umbilical cord blood and wall tissue that has been anonymously by a reputable laboratory. Note that it is deemed unethical to use stem cells from a particular child to treat anyone other than that child, although the federal government does allow banked cord blood to be used to treat certain close family members.
Once a donor has been located, there is no need for genetic testing, or any worry about rejection or a negative immune system response. Because allogeneic stem cells from cord blood and wall tissue are essentially invisible to the patient's immune system, the risk of a negative reaction is infinitesimal.
Your doctor will need to determine the right type of stem cells for your particular needs. For instance, will mesenchymal stem cells be needed? Would your condition be better treated with hemopoietic stem cells be a better option? If mesenchymal cells are the better choice, you will need stem cells primarily sourced from umbilical cord wall tissue. If hemopoietic stem cells are needed, cord blood is possibly the better source.
It's not just about the type of stem cells necessary to treat your condition. Your doctor must also decide on an administration method. There are many different ways that stem cells can be administered in the body, but the right technique is needed - it should fit the injury, disease or illness in question. For instance, spinal cord injury could be treated with stem cells administered via an epidural injection (please remember that such treatment is still considered experimental and investigational). For bone damage, interosseous administration might be necessary. For autoimmune disorders, diabetes, Lyme disease or fertility problems, intravenous (IV) infusion might be the better administration choice. For patients with degenerative disc disease, intradiscal injections are most likely the better option. Again, all such treatments and strictly investigational.
You will be monitored after receiving the stem cell treatment, but the specific steps taken will depend largely on the condition, injury or disease being treated. For instance, multiple sclerosis patients may only need an MRI to verify that plaques are decreasing.
Finally, understand that, as with any other treatment option, however infrequently, there are potential complications that can occur with allogeneic stem cell
transplants. These risks include remote possibility of graft rejection, graft versus host disease, infection and veno-occlusive disease. Your physician can explain these complications and your risk of experiencing them.
Your Choice in Doctors
While allogeneic stem cells are the best approach to ensuring you have the best chance of recovering from disease, working with the right medical professional is important. It is crucial to work with a medical professional who understands the advantages offered by allogeneic stem cell transplant for both cancer patients, and those suffering from other diseases. Your doctor should also have a firm understanding of the type of stem cells needed to effect treatment, and the right administration method for your situation.