It is important to understand that this treatment is entirely autologous (one's own self). No embryonic, foreign, donated, or cultured stem cells are used. The stem cells used are entirely your own. They are harvested and put back into you again within a few hours.
Before the Treatment
Pretreatment consultations and assessments are conducted to establish appropriateness of the treatment for the condition, and to consider general health and safety issues concerning the patient. Blood tests and x-rays are arranged to further ensure the health of the patient and to help establish baseline reference data by which future progress can measured. Full information is given and discussed to ensure patient informed consent.
Adipose Derived Stem Cell Treatment is done as a single, all in one, "in house", procedure. It is a day case or outpatient type procedure where the patient walks in, and walks out. This is not a general anaesthetic procedure and does not require an overnight stay in hospital. The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and usually some light sedation.
The procedure can be divided into 3 stages:
- Harvesting of the Fat
- Processing the Fat and Stem Cells
- Administering the Stem Cells
1. Harvesting the Fat
Fat harvesting is a bit like mini-liposuction. The essential difference is that the fat in harvesting needs to be preserved; it is removed more gently, with less suction pressure and hence less "trauma" to the fat cells, stem cells, and to the patient. Abdominal wall fat is the preferable harvest site, not only for ease of access, but importantly, it is the site of the highest numbers of stem cells. That's right, your "spare tyre" is the highest source of adult stem cells that we currently know of!
Once the desired amount of fat has been removed (and yes, you will possibly drop a belt notch size around your girth), the small skin access nick is glued and sticking plaster is applied. At this stage the patient is sat up and may go home, to return later in the day for stage 3 of the treatment.
2. Processing the Fat and Stem Cells
This stage is essentially a "laboratory type" process and does not require the patient to be present. The harvested fat is processed to isolate the Stromal Vascular Fraction with associated stem cells, and then this is activated with autologous (patient's own) growth factor followed by light stimulation therapy. This is done entirely on site at the clinic. The stem cells are not subjected to any culturing or manipulative expansion. This process can take up to several hours.
3. Administering the Stem Cells
For this final stage, the patient's own stem cells are reintroduced directly back into the patient. Depending on the medical condition or conditions, there are two ways to do this.
For specific localised problems such as an arthritic joint, injury or localised wound, administration of the stem cells may involve locally injecting or applying the stem cells, perhaps under a bit of local anaesthetic.
For more generalised systemic type illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid, immune or inflammatory conditions etc, usually an intravenous (IV) administration of stem cells will be given. This has the effect of allowing the activated stem cells to "go forth and seek out" the sites of damage or disease within the body. The administration of stem cells is via an IV drip and is painless, with the patient usually sitting up and chatting to the staff.
Often, treatment may be a combination of some localised infiltration plus a generalised iv infusion of stem cells.
Administering the stem cells typically takes up to one hour. After this the patient is allowed to return home.
How many Adult Adipose Derived Stem Cells can be obtained?
Unlike bone marrow derived, donor, or cultured stem cells, which typically number in the 10's of thousands to up to several million cells, our method typically obtains 10's of millions to hundreds of millions of stem cells. Our largest number to date has been 1.4 billion cells!!! These numbers make the donor or embryonic type numbers and methods, look like a drop in the body's ocean of cells. This is yet another reason why autologous stem cells have such an advantage.
After the Treatment
Usually, very little difference is noticed immediately following the stem cell treatment. Rarely a transient mild fever can occur but settles. Apart from a 24 hour driving restriction due to the light sedative, daily activities are otherwise unchanged. Sometimes the harvest site is a little uncomfortable, but this is readily overcome with simple pain relief such as paracetomol the following day.
Usually within a few days, early changes or symptoms may be noticed. An arthritic joint may initially mildly flare up, but then typically quickly settles. Lesser aches and pains can sometimes show dramatic improvements within a week. However symptoms and the timeline for symptom improvement, is of course very dependent on the condition and its severity.
Stem cells and their regenerative capacity, are part of a healing process, and like any healing, it takes time. What we have found, is that symptom improvements usually become noticeable after 4 weeks and continue for up to 5-6 months following the stem cell treatment. This would be consistent with this healing model.
In the weeks and months following treatment, appointments are made to review progress and monitor changes. This would usually include further follow up investigations including blood tests and x-rays etc.