Autonomic Specialists, in association with the Cell Surgical Network, is now able to offer investigational treatments utilizing adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), dysautonomia, POTS, and a range of other neurodegenerative diseases and chronic conditions.
What Is Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy?
Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy utilizes a new medical technology that enables us to extract the stem cells from the patient’s own body fat (adipose). Adipose tissue contains a very high proportion of stem cells – about 2500 times more stem cells than are found in bone marrow.
Adipose tissue is also much easier to extract than bone marrow. Using a quick mini-liposuction technique, we are able to extract the fat cells, usually from the abdominal region. The extraction only takes about 20 minutes and is performed under local anesthesia.
Once the extraction is completed, a component called stromal vascular fraction (SVF), rich in both stem cells and growth factors, can be separated from the fat the same day – right at our medical facility. This process utilizes a new technology that requires only minimal processing and takes place under sterile conditions using a special “closed system” technology. As a result, the stem cells never come in contact with the outside environment.
Deploying the MSC
After the SVF containing the stem cells is extracted, it is then deployed back into the patient intravenously. The entire treatment process takes about two hours.
Using Adult Stem Cells
While there has been controversy over the use of embryonic stem cells in the treatment of disease, At Autonomic Specialists, we only use adult stem cells that are extracted from the patient’s own body. Therefore we do not use any embryonic stem cells at our facility.
How Stem Cells Are Used to Treat Dysautonomia
There are two possible ways in which stem cells can have a positive effect in patients with dysautonomia. First, by addressing autoimmune factors that are now known to be present in patients with the disease, and secondly by inhibiting microglia, the inflammatory cells found within the central nervous system (CNS).
Perhaps as many as half of all dysautonomia cases are thought to be caused by antibodies that block certain receptors found on nerve cells in patients with the disease. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma and Vanderbilt University were the first to identify the presence of these autoantibodies in patients with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a form of dysautonomia; the discovery was published in a In a recent study1. We believe that it may be the anti-inflammatory effect of MSC that helps to inhibit autoantibodies, allowing for improved function of the affected nerve cell receptors, but this theory requires more research.
Inflammation of neurons is present in some patients with dysautonomia. Stem cells have been shown to have an anti-proliferative effect on microglia2, reducing inflammation in the CNS that contributes to disease progression. The theoretical basis for this treatment is supported by clinical research including a randomized trial of the use of MSC therapy for a devastating form of dysautonomia called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), conducted by the Department of Neurology, Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea in 20123.
We are studying the potential of MSC, with the inherent anti inflammatory and immune modulatory qualities, for patients with dysautonomia including POTS. This is a patient funded and IRB approved study evaluating treatment safety and clinical outcomes.
An Innovative Therapy
MSC therapy is currently considered an investigational treatment. Stem cell therapy has already shown considerable promise in treating a range of degenerative conditions. Potential applications for MSC therapy include treatments for patients with MS, dysautonomia, POTS, MSA, and a variety of other chronic or degenerative conditions and diseases.