Stem Cell Therapy and Immune System Improvement
The body’s immune system is the front line of defense against bacterial infections and viral invaders like the novel coronavirus. However, the immune system is affected by a broad range of factors and conditions that may make it less than effective in fighting off attackers. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to achieve immune system improvement, potentially including stem cell therapy.
Understanding the Body’s Immune System
While we think of the immune system as a single layer of defense, the truth is that it is much more complex than that. It’s actually a network of multiple bodily systems that spreads throughout the entire human body and infuses every level. In fact, it’s the second most complicated bodily system, coming in just behind the nervous system. The body’s immune system includes:
- White blood cells
Those cells are created and stored in:
- The tonsils
- Your digestive system
- Your skin
- Your lymphatic system
- Your spleen
- Your bone marrow
The Immune System Learns
Many people assume that the immune system just…is. It defends the body against any and all foreign invaders. It does that, but it also learns from past experiences. For instance, if someone successfully recovers from an illness, the immune system learns to make antibodies that fight that illness in the future. This is how vaccines work – they give your body the chance to develop antibodies to a particular virus or other threat by exposing it to a weakened or dead version. Then, if you encounter the real thing, your body is ready to handle it.
Factors That Weaken the Immune System
Everyone’s immune system is different, but there are factors that can affect it negatively, reducing its ability to fight off invaders. Some of these factors are diseases that compromise the system, or medications that you might be taking. However, there are other factors, many of which are within your ability to address, including the following:
- Following a diet poor in nutrition
- Not getting enough exercise
- Being overweight or obese
- Smoking or using other forms of tobacco
- Drinking alcohol immoderately
- Not getting enough (or good quality) sleep
- Suffering from high levels of stress and/or anxiety
- Not taking specific steps to limit your exposure to viruses and other pathogens
How to Strengthen Your Immune System
While much of your immune system’s strength is determined at birth and by your age, as well as the presence or absence of immune-compromising factors, there are things that can be done to increase your immune system’s function.
Eat Right – One of the most important considerations for anyone worried about their immune system health is to ensure that you’re eating a healthful diet. This means eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Avoid Stress – The impact of stress on the immune system is still being determined, but it has been shown to be significant. The greater your stress level, the more impacted your immune system will be. Note that this is not short-term, “one-off” stressors, but generally refers to long-term situations where stress becomes almost a way of life, rather than a limited-time situation due to specific but not constant factors.
Exercise More – Getting enough exercise can be challenging, but it is essential. It boosts your body’s overall health, which includes the immune system, but it also improves circulation, which helps ensure that immune system cells move through the body freely to perform their jobs.
Stem Cells: What Do They Have to Do with the Immune System?
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks. They form the foundation of the immune system, as well. There is significant ongoing research into using stem cells to boost immune system function, as well as to treat a very wide range of diseases and health conditions.
For instance, in a study by the University of Southern California published in the journal Cell Press, infusions of stem cells are used to control autoimmune disorders. The study’s authors explain that,
“in mice, systemic infusion of BMMSCs induced transient T cell apoptosis via the FAS ligand (FASL)-dependent FAS pathway and could ameliorate disease phenotypes in fibrillin-1 mutated systemic sclerosis (SS) and dextran-sulfate-sodium-induced experimental colitis. FASL−/− BMMSCs did not induce T cell apoptosis in recipients and could not ameliorate SS and colitis. Mechanistic analysis revealed that FAS-regulated monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1) secretion by BMMSCs recruited T cells for FASL-mediated apoptosis. The apoptotic T cells subsequently triggered macrophages to produce high levels of TGFβ, which in turn led to the upregulation of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells and, ultimately, immune tolerance. These data, therefore, demonstrate a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying BMMSC-based immunotherapy involving coupling via FAS/FASL to induce T cell apoptosis.”
This hard scientific language basically means that stem cells regulate T-killer cells, assisting in autoimmune normalization.
The Type of Stem Cells Is Important
In stem cell therapy, two types of cells are used. These are autologous stem cells and allogeneic stem cells. While they are similar, they are not identical, and it is important that the appropriate type be used.
Autologous – Autologous stem cells are harvested from the patient’s own body, often from fat tissue, but sometimes from other tissues, including bone marrow. Because these are the patient’s own stem cells, they are the same age as the body and may suffer from low energy, as well as damage from mutations.
Allogeneic – Allogeneic stem cells are not sourced from the patient’s body, but instead from umbilical cord blood and wall. This means that they are youthful and energetic, but also that they do not suffer from mutations. Allogeneic stem cells are also immune system naïve, meaning that they do not create a negative immune system reaction.
In the end, stem cell therapy may be able to improve immune system performance to help fight off pathogens, such as the novel coronavirus and help prevent the development of COVID-19. However, it is important to understand that all such therapies should be considered experimental only, as the FDA has not approved any form of stem cell treatment within the United States.