As most people today know, stem cells play an essential role in tissue regeneration. They replace cells that have died as a result of the aging process. (Stem cells also are responsible for regeneration and rejuvenation following cellular injury or damage that is not related to the aging process). Do you know that over 10 million cells in your body die every second? These cells need to be regenerated and replaced also every second!
Stem Cells Defined
In simplest terms, a stem cell is an unspecified cell that can both self-renew (i.e., reproduce itself) and differentiate into many types of mature cells, (from collagen, to skin, to cartilage, to heart, to lung, to pancreas, and so on.) Consequently, stem cells are a key component of attaining and maintaining good health and well-being across the life span, and of achieving the full 120 years promised to us by God in Genesis 6:3. This is because stem cells have the capability to change into other types of cells, which gives them enormous regenerative and rejuvenating power. In other words, stem cells can keep us young and in prime health!
Most of the FDA-approved stem-cell therapy in the United States today is Autologous. Autologous stem cells are stem cells taken from the same individual who will receive the graft of the extracted stem cells. (In other words, autologous means that the individual is both the donor and the recipient.)
The Basics of Stem-Cell Therapy
Stem cells can be collected from peripheral blood, adipose (fat) tissue or bone marrow. Adipose tissues have more stem cells but fewer growth factors, while peripheral blood cells have fewer stem cells but more growth factors in the plasma component of the blood. Therefore, a combination of these two sources of stem cells-peripheral blood cells and adipose tissue-offers the best of both worlds, so to speak, allowing for more stem cells and more growth factors. IN addition, collection of stem cells from peripheral blood cells and adipose tissue is less painful than collection from bone marrow while yielding more stem cells than bone marrow. It is widely known that the age of the donor and the donor’s level of growth factors, such as IFG-1 (insulin growth factor), HGH (human growth hormone), testosterone, and estrogen, are directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the donor’s stem cells. (Remember, in the case of Autologous stem-cell therapy, the same individual is both donor and recipient). Thus, total hormone supplementation/replacement program plays an essential role in stem cells. In order to have a good quantity and quality of stem cells collected, we check the levels of growth factors in the donor before starting therapy.
IGF-1, HGH, and other Growth Factors.
IGF-1 is a growth-hormone-related protein and a growth factor that we use to measure and estimate the level of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) in each individual. Again, we use IGF-1 for this purpose because the level of HGH in the body fluctuates on hourly basis throughout the every 24-hour period, whereas the level of IGF-1 in the body does not fluctuate. Let’s more deeply examine the scientific findings related to IGF-1, HGH and stem-cell growth.
Life Technologies in Maryland has conducted much research in this area. Their researchers have reported the increase of cell growth in studies of human stem cells cultured in IGF-1 (4ug/ml) of controlled medium. This growth was reported after six days in the culture, at which time cell numbers increased from 100,000 to 500,000.
Researchers at the University of Wurzburg in Germany have reached similar conclusions and have in fact expanded upon the results described above. To summarize the conclusion of my German colleagues, “Age-dependent impairment of stem cells is corrected by growth hormone-mediated increase of IGF-1.
The Wurzburg research team further reported the following results from studies of middle-aged (57.4, plus or minus 1.4 years) males, as well as elderly (older than 58.8) and young (younger than 56) male subjects.
• Growth hormone (GH) treatment in middle-aged subjects elevated IGF-1 levels and increased circulating stem cells, with improved colony forming and migratory capacity comparable to that of younger subjects.
• IGF-1 stimulated stem-cell differentiation, migratory capacity, and the ability to incorporate into forming vascular networks in vitro via the IGF-1 receptor.
• IGF-1 increased telomerase activity.
• Growth-hormone-mediated increase in IGF_1 reverses age-related stem-cell dysfunction.
• IGF-1 improved function and attenuated cellular senescence (reduced cell vitality caused by aging) in elderly subjects.
Furthermore, cellular aging in associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis (so-called hardening of the arteries), a possible cause of which is low stem-cell numbers and dysfunctional endothelial stem cells that insufficiently repair damaged vascular walls. (Endothelial cells line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.) Growth-hormone-mediated increase of IGF-1 improved the situation in the subjects in the Wurzburg study who received growth hormone (recombinant GH 0.4mg/d) over a ten-day period.
Conducting separate studies related to the administration of growth hormones, medical researchers in Texas have reported conclusions similar to what we have discussed thus far. Specifically, GH administration selectively augments the outgrowth of stem-cell population in healthy individuals, which supports GH replacement in the setting of adult GH deficiency in order to maintain vascular integrity; “this has positive implications for the use of GH in future regenerative cell-based therapies.”
Furthermore, the decrease in stem cells observed as part of the aging process may in part be explained by the decline of GH, thereby contributing to cardiovascular senescence (aging/ deterioration). The Texas research team’s studies suggest that stem cells impact vascular health by modulating vascular repair and function: current evidence demonstrates that both the number of stem cells and their functionality are restored/ regenerated as a result of growth-hormone-mediated IGF-1; therefore, modulation of GH and IGF-1 may provide a useful therapy in the prevention of age-associated changes in the cardiovascular system and in future regenerative cell-based therapies.
The supportive findings continue. Another research team in the Netherlands, working independently of the teams described above, concluded that one year of recombinant GH replacement in adults with GH deficiency improved endothelial function and increased the number of circulating stem cells, which strengthens and corroborates the conclusions discussed thus far.
In 2012, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Dr. Yamanaka who, continuing the work of British scientist Dr. Gurdon, discovered that reprogramming in cells (for example an adipose tissue cell) can be accomplished by just four transcription factors (OCT4, SOX2, KLF4,C-MYC.) Transcription factors are proteins made by master genes to regulate other genes. By injecting the four transcription factors into an adult cell of any type Dr. Yamanaka showed that he could lead the cell back to its primitive, or stem cell, form.
This type of discovery shows how important it is to have these growth factors, which are in the plasma of the donor, be transplanted together and at the same time with the adipose tissue cells in cosmetic procedures.
Now that we have thoroughly examined the importance of IGF-1, HGH and Growth Factors, let’s explore some of the other essential hormones as related to the quantity and quality of the stem cells in our bodies, and to the total hormone supplementation/replacement therapy program.
Let’s examine the effects of estrogen on stem cells and the human body’s capacity for cellular regeneration/rejuvenation. (Remember that estrogen is a female sex hormone.) In general, estrogen offers significant benefits among diverse stem-cell populations. Specifically, estrogen increases the proliferation of embryonic neural stem cells and accelerates differentiation of neurons during neurogenesis (growth of nerve cells), which suggest that estrogen may play a role in transplantation of neural stem cells as part of a therapeutic approach to neurodegenerative disease. Separate clinical research on estrogen indicates that premenopausal women presented the highest level of circulating stem cells (1.4 per 10,000 cells), while postmenopausal women presented the lowest (4 per 1,000,000 cells); moreover, the level of stem cells increased significantly with bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, on average by 25.5 percent.
Another key hormone, Pregnenolone, promotes the proliferation of human stem cells (also called progenitor cells), making Pregnenolone vital to both stem-cell therapy and the total hormone replacement/supplementation therapy program.
Whereas Pregnenolone works to proliferate stem cells in a more aggregate manner, T3 (a thyroid hormone) promotes cardiac differentiation and maturation of embryonic stem cells; that is, embryonic stem cells can differentiate into functional cardio-myocytes (cardiac-muscle cells), meaning that T3 promotes stem-cell growth of heart-muscle tissue.
Finally, we must consider melatonin, which behaves as a preconditioning agent that increases the survival of stem cells. Using melatonin for pretreatment of stem cells may represent a new a new safer approach to improving the beneficial effects of stem-cell therapy administered to solid organs, as appeared to be the case following an intraparenchymal injection of melatonin into an ischemic kidney. (The kidney was considered ischemic because of a deficient supply of blood as a result of an obstructed inflow of arterial blood to the organ.)
With each passing day, more innovative and exciting research takes place in the groundbreaking field of stem-cell therapy. To be sure, the findings will only proliferate, reinforcing our existing knowledge that bio-identical hormones all play an essential role in maintaining the quantity and quality of the stem cells in our bodies.