The South African Stem Cell Institute works in close association with US Stem Cell inc. (previously known as Bio Heart inc.)
  • What?

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells

Regenerative medicine is aimed at replacing damaged or diseased cells in hopes of restoring or improving their normal physiological function.  Nowadays the term “Regenerative Medicine” is often used to describe medical treatments and research that utilize stem cells to restore these functions.  This can be achieved through either the administration of stem cells or administering more specific cells derived from stem cells.  Another approach to regerative medicine involves the administration of compounds that stimulate stem cells that are already present in tissues to more effectively repair the affected structures.

Stem cells are the precursor cells found throughout our bodies from which mature or differentiated cells are derived.  They are characterized by the abilty to renew themselves or develop into more specialized cells and therefore have the potential to replace cells or tissues which has been damaged or destroyed due to disease processes/injuries.

Stem cell therapy therefore leads to tissue regeneration much like an organ transplant but is much less invasive and only cells are used as therapy.  By applying these regenerative stem cell properties clinically we can treat various diseases or conditions by harnessing the body’s natural healing abilities.

 

What type of stem cells does the South African Stem Cell Institute specialize in?

 

As stem cells occur throughout our bodies during all stages of life they can easily be harvested from adult tissue.

Different types of Adult Stem Cells and their sources:

  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells:  Primarily Adipose/Fat tissue, Bone Marrow, also teeth
  • Fetal Stem Cells:  Umbilical cord blood, Aborted fetal tissue
  • Amniotic Stem Cells:  Amniotic fluid

The South African Stem Cell Institute specializes in Adult Stem Cells which are predominantly isolated from adipose tissue or ‘fat’ obtained through liposuction or from bone marrow obtained through an aspiration procedure.  These adult stem cells are known as Mesenchymal Stem Cells.

 

source_of_MSC

What are the applications of Stem Cell therapy?

Various conditions have been treated with Stem Cell therapy and current research shows promising future applications.  Adult adipose tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells that are being employed in both research and clinical environments for a variety of aesthetic and medical conditions.  Examples of injuries, genetic conditions or diseases treated with stem cell regenerative therapy, include:

  • Skin regeneration
  • Neurology (Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Spinal Cord Injuries)
  • Orthopaedics (Osteo-arthritis, cartilage & bone repair)
  • Sports injury (cartilage & ligament repair)
  • Respiratory system (COPD’s such as emphysema)
  • Cardiology (Heart muscle regeneration)
  • Salivary gland regeneration (radiation induced Xerostomia)
  • Blood circulation (Critical Limb Ischemia)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 1
  • Stimulation of Hair growth
  • & many other areas

 

At the South African Stem Cell Institute, our treatments are focussed on musculoskeletal applications.  Banking of your stem cells will ensure availability for future applications.

 

What are the advantages of adult Stem Cells?

 

The following advantages are associated with the use of adult stem cells in Regenerative Medicine:

  • Cells are derived entirely from mature tissues and therefore it is non controversial and no ethical codes are breached
  • Even though adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells are somewhat differentiated, they are still multipotential and can form a number of new tissues
  • Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells are less teratogenic (in other words less prone to tumor formation)
  • These cells are immunosuppressant in nature meaning they wouldn’t elicit a strong immune response after treatment and therefore rejection are unlikely
  • Once a pure mesenchymal stem cell population has been obtained both inter-individual and inter-species transplants are possible
  • There are many different sources from which these cells can be obtained
What additional treatments can be coupled to Stem Cell therapy for even more success?

 

A Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment coupled with a Point of care Adult Mesenchymal Adipose-derived Stem Cell treatment are recommended for best results.

The beneficial effects of a PRP coupled approach is depicted in the study on wound healing below, where the vehicle depicts normal healing time, then PRP alone and finally followed by a PRP-Stem Cell coupled treatment:

 

prp

prp2

 

  • How?

How are stem cells obtained and what is the procedure?

 

After your first consultation with one of our medical professionals, a date can be scheduled for a fat harvest or bone marrow aspiration procedure and you will be given specific instructions, including:

  • No anti-inflammatory drugs may be utilized one month prior to harvest/treatment as well as for two weeks thereafter
  • Total abstinence from tobacco products and alcohol for at least two weeks prior to and after harvest/treatment are required
  • No omega 3,6 or 9 supplements to be taken two weeks prior to and after harvest/teatment.

We start the appointment by taking the vitals of the patient, followed by the fat harvest procedure under tumescent anaesthesia / bone marrow aspiration done in our clinic under local anaesthesia.

 

For Adipose derived stem cells:

Abdominal fat tissue is mainly harvested, but the best area for harvest will be determined by your medical professional.  Tumescent harvest produces finely minced fat tissue fragments.  The obtained adipose tissue is taken to our lab directly after harvest.  Processing of this fatty tissue then leads to isolation of adult mesenchymal stem cells. The end product of this isolation process is the cell pellet, known as the SVF (stromal vascular fraction), which contains an extremely beneficial mixture of many different cells, including adult mesenchymal type stem cells.  We typically use 120cc of fat per isolation.  One stem cell sample (obtained from 60cc fat) is delivered back to the patient and reintroduced into the body immediately within 4 hours, increasing the innate stem cell concentration in a Point of Care setting.  The other stem cell sample (also obtained from 60cc fat) is used for culture expansion/growth of the stem cell population for future treatments.  When cells have reached a population size of 3x 6 million cell samples, it is frozen for 24 hours at -80°C in a Control Rate Freezer, followed by indefinite storage in a Liquid Nitrogen Freezer at approx -160°C.

 

For Bone marrow derived stem cells:

Bone marrow is mainly aspirated form the posterior iliac crest (back of the hip bone) or the tibia (shinbone), but the best area for aspiration will be determined by your medical professional. The obtained bone marrow is taken to our lab directly after aspiration procedure. Processing of this bone marrow then leads to isolation of adult mesenchymal stem cells. The end product of this isolation process is the cell pellet, which contains an extremely beneficial mixture of many different cells, including adult mesenchymal type stem cells. We typically use 50cc of bone marrow per isolation. One stem cell sample (obtained from 25cc bone marrow) is delivered back to the patient and reintroduced into the body immediately within 4 hours, increasing the innate stem cell concentration in a Point of Care setting. The other stem cell sample (also obtained from 25cc bone marrow) is used for culture expansion/growth of the stem cell population for future treatments. When cells have reached a population size of 2x 6 million cell samples, it is frozen for 24 hours at -80°C in a Control Rate Freezer, followed by indefinite storage in a Liquid Nitrogen Freezer at approx -160°C.

 

Our laboratory:

 

How long can stem cells be stored & what happens to the Stem Cells after the paid-up period?

Theoretically, the stem cells can be stored forever, as they are cryopreserved and stored at -160 degrees Celsius, where all ageing is halted.  However, there is only scientific proof that stem cells are viable for as long as 24 years, as this is currently the longest period in which stem cells have been stored, thawed and tested for viability.  Therefore the answer to this question will be updated each year viable stem cells are thawed.  Storage fees currently average around R2160 per annum (R180 per month) and will be adjusted annually for inflation.

We will give you notice each year of any accounts needed to be settled.  A payment plan can also be discussed with our practice manager.  We will keep your Stem Cells for one year after elapsed paid-up period, where after the cells will be disposed of in a suitable manner.

How secure are my stem cells & what guarantees are there that some of my stem cells will not be used for research?

 

The South African Stem Cell Institute is a private stem cell bank.  We comply with the Human Tissue Act and are therefore bound by law to upheld good ethical practices and can therefore not use your stem cells for research or any other purpose without your prior written consent.

How does a Stem Cell transplant work?

 

There are 2 types of transplants:

  • Autologous: the donor and the recipient are the same person
  • Allogeneic: from a donor other than the patient him-/herself

The method of administration/reintroduction of the Stem Cells will be determined by your medical professional depending on your specific condition.  Stem Cells can be given intravenously (IV), injected into the body part/joint of interest, injected into the spine or coupled with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP).

 

Allogeneic

How many Stem Cells are needed for each transplantation?

 

Our standard procedure is to reintroduce 10 million Stem Cells with each treatment.  Your medical professional can increase the treatment amount according to his/her preference.

How much does Stem Cell therapy cost?

 

A detailed summary of the cost is available under the heading ‘Pricing’

  • Who?

Who can make use of Stem Cell based therapies?

 

Anyone, Everyone can benefit!

Who can use my Stem Cells?

 

There are 2 types of transplants:

  • Autologous: the donor and the recipient are the same person
  • Allogeneic: from a donor other than the patient him-/herself

Please note, Stem Cell therapy will not be successful when transplanted autologously to treat certain inherited disorders, as the genes that code for the inherited disorder will be present in those stem cells. In this case, a sibling or unrelated donor’s stem cells would be recommended.

  • When?

When is the best time to harvest and/or bank my Stem Cells?

 

YESTERDAY!  The younger you are the better.  Stem Cells also age and with aging, their viability and differentiation potential decreases.  For our older patients we usually recommend to make use of our Donor stem cell options.

 

young cell

  • Where?

Where and how are the Stem Cells stored? Does loadshedding affect the storage of my Stem Cells?

 

The stem cells are stored in a liquid nitrogen cryogenic tank at -160°C at our laboratory in Parys. You are welcome to visit our laboratory by appointment to come and see how we process and store stem cells.

Your Stem Cells will be completely unaffected by load shedding as our storage tank DOES NOT operate electrically.  The stem cells are stored in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen, which is readily available in South Africa.  As electricity is critical to our other laboratory equipment, we have UPS back-up systems in place on all equipment in addition to a large generator.  Therefore, we can continue to process/store stem cells during load shedding.

  • Why?

Why should I store my Stem Cells?

 

Stem cell banking is without a doubt the best medical insurance currently available for the future.  Your investment, as early in life as possible, will provide you with medical options should you or a family member get injured or fall ill with an ailment treatable with Regenerative Stem Cell therapy.

You should strongly consider stem cell banking if:

  • There is a family history of certain diseases treatable by stem cells in your family
  • There is a sibling with a disease treatable using stem cells
  • You are a family of African descent or a mixed race couple, as such people are under-represented in donor banks/registries
  • You are a sports enthusiast with a higher risk of joint, cartilage and ligament damage

Even if the above mentioned considerations doesn’t apply to you, you should strongly consider Stem Cell banking NOW as your Stem Cell viability and differentiation potential are better the younger you are.

Why are Stem Cells controversial?

 

Even though Embryonic Stem Cells are totipotential meaning that they can differentiate into any cell type as opposed to the more limited potential of Adult Stem Cells, they are obtained from embryos resulting in the destruction of the embryo and loss of potential life.  It is important to understand that Stem Cells do not necessarily have to be obtained from embryonic tissue.  The South African Stem Cell Institute is not involved in any form of embryonic stem cell science.  The research, processing, storage and therapies involving Adult Stem Cells are not the subject of ethical controversy.

 

controvercial

  • What if?

What if we need to use the Stem Cells?

 

Let us know by phoning to make a Stem Cell treatment appointment with your medical professional.  In view of the two-week thawing and cell culture expansion process in preparation for each Stem Cell treatment, a R1,000.00 cancellation fee will be issued in the event of cancellation within the 14 days prior to your allocated appointment time.

What if my Stem Cells are not viable for storage?

 

The nature and anticipated effect of what is proposed, including the significant risks and benefits, such as stem cell viability/suitability, success of future treatment of diseases, advantages/disadvantages of stem cell treatment over other types of treatment, as well as success of cryopreservation of stem cells will be explained to you.  However, there are no assurances that any such benefits will be obtained or that the stem cells will culture expand as anticipated, as the results are dependent on the individual.  Unfortunately this is a risk ensued by the patient.

What if we immigrate?

 

Your Stem Cells can be shipped in their frozen state anywhere in the world to another stem cell bank for storage.  The cost of this will, however, be for your own account.

 

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