Does your age impact stem cell treatment success? We’ve looked long and hard through the years for this association, but it’s been, for the most part, elusive. We’ve published a number of scientific papers on the topic, but now a group of chiropractors is fabricating from thin air a narrative about age and stem cells. Despite using dead amniotic tissue and fraudulently claiming that it’s a live stem cell product, they’re claiming that one must use young stem cells in older patients. Is there any truth to this assertion?
Does age affect stem cell treatment success? In order to answer that question, let’s first let’s define a stem cell registry. A registry, in general, tracks patients at targeted time points starting prior to a procedure for many years after. In a registry, validated functional questionnaires track patients’ outcomes, and complications or side effects are also recorded. In the world of orthopedics, they exist for knee and hip replacements as well as other surgical procedures, but registries also exist in many other areas of medicine, such as cancer registries and trauma registries.
A stem cell registry, such as the Interventional Orthopedics Foundation Registry, provides the same useful data and outcome information for stem cell providers and their patients. With the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes and quality of treatment, stem cell registry data can also help providers determine which stem cell treatment strategies would be best for further research, which is imperative in the investigative field of orthopedic stem cells.
Through years of collecting stem cell registry data on our patients, we’ve looked for a relationship between age and poor outcomes. Without registry outcomes to show otherwise, it would be easy to assume that since older patients have fewer and aging stem cells, treatments using their own stem cells would show poorer outcomes. However, based on our registry data, which is currently about 10,000 patients deep, and our own research publications, that relationship largely doesn’t exist. For example, in knee stem cell treatments, we found no correlation between age and outcome when comparing age groups (i.e., ≤50 years, 51–60 years, and >60 years).
Does age affect stem cell treatment success in treating orthopedic conditions? No.This means that older patients do just as well as younger patients with a precise injection of their own stem cells. In fact, the only exception to this that we’ve seen so far is with hip arthritis, where we found that patients ≤ 55 years old were more likely to report greater than 50% improvement. Poorer hip-arthritis outcomes here, however, seem to be as much related to older age as to the severity of the arthritis on X-ray or MRI.
Despite the published research, there are sales reps pushing dead amniotic or cord-blood tissue and falsely claiming these processed and packaged products are live stem cells, and there are chiropractors and other providers out there selling this lie to their patients. Taking this scam a step further, these same groups are claiming that young stem cells are needed for older patients.
Obviously, a young and dead stem cell is not more biologically active than an older live stem cell. Why? A dead cell is a dead cell, old or young. In addition, we tested the idea of whether the young tissue in these amniotic products could help older stem cells. We were really excited about this possibility. However, in the end, our lab research demonstrated that these younger amniotic tissues were more harmful than helpful to older stem cells.
The upshot? Dead amniotic cells are not magic pixie dust that suddenly spring to life when they’re injected, so don’t believe the amniotic scams. However, also realize that these procedures aren’t magic. They have a success and failure rate just like any other procedure. Also realize that our research shows that, for the most part, age doesn’t define that bright line between success and failure.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…