1. WHAT ARE STEM CELLS?
Amongst the trillion of cells in our body, there is a special kind of cells, called stem cells, which have regenerative powers and are the founding blocks of life: they remain dormant in our body from where they can be extracted. Bone marrow, peripherical blood and fat tissue are all sources of stem cells. Those cells are also called “mother cells” or “progenitor” cells; they help rebuild, repair and rejuvenate our body; in other words: they stimulate the body to heal itself.
Stem cells differ from other cells in two ways: they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division to replenish other cells, repairing or replacing damaged tissue and, under certain physiologic conditions, they can be induced to become tissue -or organ- specific cells with special functions. In other words, stem cells have this dual capacity to self-renew and differentiate.
2. TYPES OF STEM CELLS?
1) Embryonic cells are extracted from the embryo. In Guatemala research and the use of embryonic stem cells for therapy are not allowed for issues related to ethics and religion. 2) Umbilical cord cells are derived from the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. It has now become common procedure to freeze those cells in special stem cell banks with the hope that they can be used in the future, if needed. Like in many other parts of the world, in Guatemala there is a private bank of umbilical cord stem cells. Umbilical cord cells are ideal for patients who have had chemotherapy or to treat disorders of the blood & immune system. Those stem cells can help women with breast cancer, or patients who suffer from different types of luekemia, and for whom classical chemotherapy has not been effective. Umbilical cord blood is a priceless source of stem cells which in Guatemala can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions:
- Liver failure
- Cancer & Leukemia
- Lymphomas, Myeloma
- Sickle cell disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases: cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure
- Brain Injury
- Cerebral Palsy
- Sequelae of meningitis and of cerebrovascular conditions
3)Adult stem cells: in Guatemala stem cell therapies are only performed with adult stem cells, which can either be autologous or heterologous: – Heterologous: stem cells are extracted from a compatible donor; umbilical cord stem cells for instance are considered heterologous stem cells. To treat leukemia, lymphomas and bone cancer, stem cells are either extracted from the patient himself or from a compatible donor, who is either part of the family or not; the chances of compatibility are higher when the donor is a member of the family. Clinical tests are performed in Guatemala to check the histo-compatibility between donor and receptor. – Autologous: stem cells from one’s own body; they are extracted from either the bone marrow (hematopoietic stem cells), peripheral blood (peripheral blood stem cells or PBSCs), or fat tissue. Of great interest are Adipose stem cells extracted from fat tissue, also called Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs): they are the most abundant and richest sources of stem cells. There are 500 times more mesenchymal stem cells in 1 gram of fat tissue than there are in 1 gram of bone marrow. In Guatemala extraction of fat tissue – to be then processed by a specialized lab and used as adipose stem cells – is being performed by a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Experimental studies suggest that adipose stem cells can develop into new tissues and can also suppress pathological immune responses like in autoimmune diseases.
3. HOW DO STEM CELLS CURE?
Stem cells heal through stem cell therapy or stem cell transplantation, which consists in extracting stem cells from the body’s peripherical blood, bone marrow or fat tissue; the stem cells are then separated from the other cells ( – that don’t have those regenerative powers – ), purified and isolated in a concentrated form by a specialized lab and then re-injected intravenously or intramuscularly; those stem cells can also be injected in or around the affected organ to treat a disease or injury by regenerating new cells and new tissue.
A fundamental feature of stem cells is that they don’t necessarily have to be implanted into the damaged organ itself, because they will automatically find their way to heal the damaged tissues, they have their own “radar” or inner intelligence: this process is called homing.
Regenerative Medicine is the biggest breakthrough in Medicine, whereby worldwide investigations in stem cell therapies for over the last 20 years, are demonstrating that our body is capable of regenerating itself. In a few words: stem cells are not curing but they are helping the body to heal itself.
4. WHERE DO STEM CELLS COME FROM?
Heterologous stem cells can be extracted from the patient himself or a compatible donor; umbilical cord stem cells for instance are considered heterologous stem cells. Umbilical cord cells are derived from the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. It has now become common procedure to freeze those cells in special stem cell banks with the hope that they can be used in the future, if needed. Like in many other parts of the world, in Guatemala there is a private bank of umbilical cord stem cells.
Autologous stem cells from one’s own body; they are extracted from either the bone marrow (hematopoietic stem cells), peripheral blood (peripheral blood stem cells or PBSCs), or fat tissue. Of great interest are Adipose stem cells extracted from fat tissue, also called Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs): they are the most abundant and richest sources of stem cells.
5. WHAT ABOUT EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS?
Embryonic cells are extracted from the embryo. In Guatemala research and the use of embryonic stem cells for therapy are not allowed for issues related to ethics and religion.
6. WHAT ABOUT PLATELET-RICH-PLASMA?
Platelets rich in plasma are obtained after withdrawing approximately 20 cc blood, then centrifuged under sterile conditions in a special kit in a laboratory, to separate them from the red cells; they bring growth factors, accelerating the healing process; they are usually added to the Stem cells administered to the patient and for stem cell lift. Stem cell lifts are being performed in Guatemala with a Board certified Plastic Surgeon, contact us if you’d like more information.
7. WHAT ABOUT CELLS FROM ANIMAL ORIGIN?
Stem cell transplants are not to be confounded with “cellular therapies” or “life cellular” therapies, which are using animal cells – mainly from cattle – which are being administered to patients under the form of capsules, tablets, injections or vials (sometimes called “anti-aging vaccines”).
P.S.: The biggest problem with those “cellular therapies” is that they contain proteins and cells from other species, which are then prepared in a laboratory. All of these cells and derivatives of proteins with chemicals are sterilized and packaged into vials or pills, similar to any other medication. The American Cancer Society has strongly advised against those so-called “cellular therapies”. Indeed, cells from the organs of one species cannot replace the cells of the organs of another species. When foreign proteins are injected, the immune system attacks them. In addition, injections of animal cells can spread viral disease and trigger severe allergic reactions. When taken orally, animal cells are digested and are not absorbed intact into the body. Medical Tourism Guatemala will never refer you to Medical Professionals who treat patients with cells derived from animals. On the contrary, the stem cell therapies Medical Tourism Guatemala refers to, are based on human cells: those stem cells are extracted from the patient’s body or from a compatible donor, the re-injection after the stem cell processing is almost instantaneous, without the use of chemical components or cells from animal origin, hence eliminating the risk of rejection or adverse reactions.
8. HOW ARE STEM CELLS ADMINISTERED?
Intravenous application is one of the safest and simplest methods to administer stem cells throughout the body. Anesthesia is not required, but can be administered if necessary depending on the patient. The administration of an IV application normally takes about 30 minutes.
Intrathecal injections are performed under local anesthesia by an experienced and board certified Anesthesiologist usually to treat spinal cord injuries or neurological conditions. ideal for most neurological conditions.
Intra-articular (into the joint)
Intra-articular injections are used to repair torn ligaments and tendons or for arthritis patients. The stem cells are injected directly into the joint or the tendon by an experienced and board certified MD Orthopedist or Specialist MD in Sports Medicine; this type of injections is also used to heal arthritis affected areas.
In Guatemala the type of stem cell administration will be choosen depending on the evaluation of the patient’s condition by the Specialist MD’s associated with the certified Lab in Stem cell processing.
9. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Medicine including Regenerative Medicine is not an exact science like Physics. Just as allopathic medicines and allopathic therapies are not a 100% guarantee for healing. Stem cell treatments result in varying degrees of success, depending on the health condition of the patient, the type of disease or injury treated and the way stem cells have been extracted and processed.
Results may be immediate or take months. Some patients may only feel tiny improvements or not at all, others are able to remarkably improve their quality of life, others may see regeneration of damaged tissues and others may experience full recovery. Recuperation may take 1 to 2 years for recipients of heterologous stem cells.
10. WHAT DISEASES CAN BE TREATED?
Basically Stem Cells can treat blood disorders and auto-immune diseases, as well as neurological conditions. Here below you’ll find a non-exhaustive list of the conditions that can be treated in Guatemala with stem cell therapies:
- Cancer, Leukemia
- Lymphomas, Myeloma
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spinal Injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Sports Injuries
- Degenerative Disc
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer (in it’s beginning stages)
- Cardiac diseases: cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure
- Rheumatologic diseases, rheumatoid Arthritis
- Liver failure
- Sequelae of meningitis and of cerebrovascular conditions
11. WHO IS CANDIDATE FOR STEM CELL THERAPY?
Before flying over to Guatemala, the first step is to assess whether you are a candidate for stem cell therapy; upon contacting us we’ll email you a medical history form to fill in and return to us with as many details as possible. Please include also your medical records like MRI images and/or X-Rays, recent blood screenings so that our specialized MDs can evaluate if you would benefit from stem cell therapy and, in the affirmative, which type of stem cell therapy would be best suited for you, taking into account also your own preferences. (for instance stem cell transplantation from peripheral blood vs. from adipose tissue).
• Once you are in Guatemala City you’ll have a physical exam with one of our associated Specialist MDs pertaining to Guatemala’s Medical Boards (Hematologist, Oncologist, Neurologist, Orthopedist, Cardiologist, or Neumologist) depending on the type of medical condition affecting your health. They are also going to review in detail your medical records, which will be treated with total discretion.
• If your stem cells are going to be extracted from your medullar bone you’ll have a medical consultation with both the Hematologist and the Anesthesiologist; if the stem cells are extracted from your fat tissue, besides the Anesthesiologist and the Cardiologist, you’ll have a consultation with the Plastic Surgeon who is going to perform a min-liposuction or lipo-aspiration. All the details of your procedures will be explained to you in detail before every procedure.
• Prior to every stem cell therapy, you’ll undergo a few basic clinical tests (blood tests, and if necessary EKG and X-Ray); If medical records are older than 3 months (e.g.: MRI images), all relevant tests can be done in Guatemala before the stem cell therapy.
12. WHAT ABOUT COST?
The cost of stem cell therapy depends on many different variables:
- Whether your treatment is with blood derived stem cells, adipose derived stem cells or bone marrow derived stem cells, all having to be extracted from your own body and processed in a special dedicated lab,,,
- The extraction process is different for each type of stem cells and implies different protocols.
- How the stem cells are going to be transplanted: intravenously, intrathecally or near the affected organ?
To be able to give you a more accurate assessment, our Specialized MDs together with the Specialists in Stem cell processing, have to evaluate you first and make sure you are a candidate for Stem Cell Therapy, in the affirmative, evaluate which stem cells are best suited for your medical condition and at the same time, determine how they are going to be administered to you.
If you are interested, please fill in this medical request form to know if you qualify as stem cell patient and to learn about the specific protocols and cost involved in your particular situation.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The text and images contained in Medical Tourism Guatemala’s website are for informational purposes only. Its content is not intended to substitute the medical diagnosis or treatment from board certified MD Specialists. Always seek advice from your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. Medical Tourism Guatemala does not warrant that the information provided is complete, accurate or up to date. Medical Tourism Guatemala‘s website does not provide medical advice.