Administering Autologous Stem Cell Therapy to the Elderly

There are several types of stem cell therapies being used for symptom alleviation right now, but autologous stem cell treatments offer a range of advantages. With autologous, a person’s own stem cells are used, so there’s no need for a donor. And both extraction and re-insertion can take place the same day — usually a specialist clinic.

Because there’s no third-party donation involved in autologous stem cell therapy, there’s no risk of rejection as the cells are simply being extracted from one area of the patient’s body and re-inserted in another. For all these reasons, this regenerative therapy is proving very popular among the elderly. 

The younger the patient, the most effective the stem cells are. Unfortunately, the efficacy of stem cells in terms of regenerative qualities diminishes with age. And there are fewer of them in old age. Autologous stem cell therapy does still deliver many benefits for the elderly, but it’s not quite as effective as it is for younger people. 

But it’s not all bad news. Research into autologous stem cell therapy for the elderly is ongoing. Specialists are finding new ways to make the most out of stem cells harvested from elderly patients. The same procedures still apply. Stem cells are extracted from adipose tissue or bone marrow, but specialists can now select only the most youthful cells for re-insertion. Not only that, the efficacy of older stem cells can be given a boost with the addition of extra substances, such as an extracellular matrix. 

The initial results of research projects are promising. In one study, researchers harvested mesenchymal stem cells from around 12 elderly people aged between 65 and 86. The youthful stem cells were then separated from the older cells. The trial clinicians then used a range of agents to help the more youthful stem cells grow and thrive. This process resulted in the number of viable stem cells increasing by 17,000 times. 

Only around 8% of harvested stem cells from elderly patients are viable for re-insertion. But the process of multiplying the healthy cells means people of any age can benefit from this regenerative therapy. Scientists can even store mesenchymal stem cells for use months later. 

Research is ongoing, however. While the signs are promising, researchers still need to examine the results when elderly patients receive large doses of youthful stem cells. 

Reference: Block, TJ et al. (2017). Restoring the quantity and quality of elderly human mesenchymal stem cells for autologous cell-based therapies. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 2017 Oct 27;8(1):239.

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