The Different Types of Cellular Therapy | Cell Therapy 101

the different types of stem cells

One of the first questions many patients have when they begin their journey into stem cell therapy is, “What are the different types of regenerative cells?”

It can be surprisingly difficult to find a direct answer to what seems like such a simple question. Today, we’re going to cut through all the noise and answer that question for you.

Not all regenerative cells are created equal

There is a common misconception that all regenerative cells are created equal. While they all become other types of cells and have the potential to regenerate and renew your cells, they also have some very important differences.

For instance, adipose-derived cells are harvested in a procedure that takes some fatty tissue from your abdomen, while bone marrow stem cells are harvested from the inside of your bones. That’s a difference I’d want to know about up front!

However, both have their uses and each could be the right types of stem cells for specific issues, so make sure you discuss a customized treatment plan with your doctor. A good regenerative cell therapy clinic will help you understand which types of stem cells are best for your situation, and you’ll reap the benefits of their expert knowledge.

What are the different types of cells used in Regenerative Medicine?

While there are many different types of regenerative cells, we’ll cover those most commonly used in clinical settings.

The categories below are based on the differentiation potential of the regenerative cells, which is the ability of a cell to become other types of cells.

Multipotent Cells

Multipotent cells can become multiple types of cells within your body.

Until recently, researchers believed that multipotent cells could only become similar types of cells to the type of tissue they were harvested from.

However, in light of recent research, clinical trials are currently underway to use multipotent cells to repair other types of tissue. For instance, regenerating heart and nerve cells.

Adult Cells

Adult cells are the cause of a great deal of excitement in the scientific community and the focus of a great deal of regenerative cell research.

While researchers once believed them to be more limited, this new research has revealed more uses for adult cells than was previously believed possible.

Adult cells have a history of research spanning more than 60 years, making them one of the best understood sources for regenerative cell therapy procedures.

  • What they are: Undifferentiated, multipotent cells. These are cells that are not set on which kind of cell they’ll become just yet, so they could become many different types of cells. For instance, glial cells or neurons.
  • Where they’re from: Juveniles and adults.
  • What they’re used for: Replenishing dying cells and regenerating damaged tissue.
  • How they work: Capable of infinitely self-dividing, even a few cells from one organ can potentially grow into an entire organ.

Medicinal Signaling Cells (MSCs) 

Medicinal signaling cells are a type of cell that comes from various tissues. The unique aspect of medicinal signaling cells are non-blood adult cells, that can still form into many different kinds of cells.

These may offer the widest range of ethical uses to the world and have considerable research behind them. In the hands of trained scientists and clinicians they can be an incredible tool for healing and regeneration.

Since they come from all sorts of tissues and can produce most of the types of cells in the human body, they are an ideal option for cell therapy. They may be used in the treatment of an array of diseases, disorders, conditions, and injuries.

  • What they are: A type of adult cell, these are multipotent and can become many types of different cell.
  • Where they’re from: Adipose (fat) tissue, cord tissue, cord blood, amniotic fluid, skin cells, and bone marrow.
  • What they’re used for: Potentially treating autoimmune diseases, other conditions and diseases, and musculoskeletal injuries (sports injuries).
  • How they work: Like other adult cells, they can self-divide to replicate to higher numbers and, when re-introduced to the body, can become many other types of cells.

Adipose-derived Cells

Since adipose stem cells are a type of mesenchymal stem cell, they carry the associated benefits.

However, due to the ease of acquisition (some fat from the patient’s abdomen), the procedure allows patients to walk out of the clinic within a few hours.

With no hospital stay or bed rest required, there is minimal interruption to patient’s lives. This makes adipose stem cells an especially appealing option to athletes, soldiers, and working people with injuries or conditions that are affecting their ability to perform their duties.

That said, the benefits have led our clinic to primarily use these cells to treat most patients, but we use other cell types as part of our custom treatment plan whenever it is more beneficial.

  • What they are: A type of mesenchymal cell, these are more flexible multipotent cells with the capacity for self-renewal. These are the primary type of cells that we use in our clinic.
  • Where they’re from: Amniotic fluid and PRP treatments allows you to walk out of the clinic the same day you come in with the procedure already over. Patients typically return to work on the following day.
  • What they’re used for: A range of applications from the regeneration of tissue in traumatic injuries to many conditions, including neurodegenerative and endocrine metabolic disorders and post-surgical reconstructions.
  • How they work: Since these are medicinal signaling cells can self-divide to replicate to higher numbers. When re-introduced to the body, can become many other types of cells.

Cord Blood Cells

Cord blood stem cells are most often used to treat blood cancers and disorders affecting the hematopoietic (blood forming) and immune system.

Since cord blood stem cells can form into blood cells, they may be effective in the treatment of leukemias, lymphomas, sickle cell disease, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, and more.

We do not use these cells in our clinic for patients with need of these specialized treatments that cord blood cells are best suited to. Contact us with any questions.

  • What they are: A type of multipotent cell, these are best used for targeted, specialized treatments when necessary.
  • Where they’re from: Cord blood cells are recovered postnatally from the umbilical cord and are a readily available and ethically viable source of cells that could save lives.
  • What they’re used for: Treating certain conditions and cancers that affect the blood and immune systems, such as leukemias, lymphomas, sickle cell disease, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, and more.
  • How they work: Since these are medicinal signaling and Hemopoietic cells, they can self-divide to replicate to higher numbers. They contain the blood forming stem cells that make them effective at treating blood conditions, even allowing them to potentially treat cancers of the blood.

Pluripotent Cells

Pluripotent cells are incredibly powerful, but come with their own concerns. These types of cells can become every type of cell that makes up the human body.

Because of this, they are closely watched by the medical community. However, they carry complications like limited availability, ethical controversy, and medical concerns.

Embryonic Cells

Since they are pluripotent and totipotent cells, embryonic sourced cells are capable of becoming any cell that makes up your body. However, the incredible benefits they could offer may also carry potentially dangerous risks.

In addition to ethical concerns, embryonic sourced cells are believed to have a risk of being rejected by your immune system. More than this, there have been findings of increased tumor formation linked to embryonic sourced cells.

Since they carry all of these issues and are not your own cells, we do not use embryonic stem cells in our clinic.

Induced Pluripotent Somatic Cells (iPSCs)

It was 2006 at Kyoto University in Japan, and researchers were on the verge of a breakthrough. Their discovery: by introducing certain embryonic genes into a somatic cell, the cell can be can give rise to a new type of cell similar to an embryonic somatic cell.

The publication of this new methodology took the scientific world by storm. Today, these are called induced pluripotent somatic cells, because the modified cell is capable of potentially becoming any cell that makes up the human body.

Because they are in their infancy, there are numerous challenges and much research is still needed to circumvent their potential risks and increase their efficacy.

Since adult somatic cells have about five decades of additional research behind them and they’ve only just recently become widely used in treatments, it may be sometime before we see iPSCs reach their full potential.

Which types of cells are the best for cell therapy?

The answer to that question will be unique for every individual, because there is a different best fit for every situation.

If you’re wondering which types of cellular therapy would be best for your treatment, contact us for a free consultation and we’ll help you make the right choice.