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What is a Stem Cell?

A stem cell is basically any cell that can undergo two functions; replication (making copies of itself) and differentiation (being able to change or transform into another type of tissue). This means the cell can not only multiply, but it can also turn into various tissue types. There are several kinds of stem cells.

Most people are most familiar with embryonic stem cells – they come from human babies or fetuses. We do NOT use embryonic stem cells at the Stem Cell treatment centers operated by Dr. Thomas A. Gionis*. These cells from the embryonic stage of development are “pluripotent” because they have yet to differentiate and can change into any body part. Because they are taken from unborn or unwanted embryos, there has been considerable moral and ethical controversy surrounding their use. Furthermore, while they have shown promise in some areas of medicine, they have also been associated with occasional tumor (teratoma) formation. Work is being conducted by several companies, most of them outside the United States, to isolate particular lines of embryonic stem cells for future use. At the Centers we only use Adult Autologous Adipose-derived Stem Cells (ADSC’s) – we do not use embryonic stem cells.

Another kind of stem cells are adult stem cells, which reside in different tissues in the body. In recent years, much work has been done on bone marrow-derived stem cells. Also known as “mesenchymal stem cells” because they come from the mesodermal areas of the body, they can differentiate into mesodermal cell types such as bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue, blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. However, because bone marrow stem cells are low in numbers, they  usually require being cultured after extraction in order to multiply their numbers for therapeutic use. At the Centers we only use Adult Autologous Adipose-derived Stem Cells (ADSC’s) – we do not use bone marrow stem cells.

As it turns out, fat is also loaded with mesenchymal stem cells. In fact, it has hundreds if not thousands of times more stem cells than bone marrow–and they are easier to extract. Because most people have adequate fat supplies and the numbers of stem cells are so great–plus we have tools that allow us to separate the stem cells from fat–there is no need to culture the cells over a period of days, so they can be used immediately.

*Stem Cell Treatment Centers operated by Dr. Thomas A. Gionis: