Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

What are stem cells?

The term ‘stem cell’ refers to any cell that can not only replicate, but also further differentiate to form several types of tissue. Stem cells may be categorized depending on their origin.

What types of stem cells are there?

Embryonic stem cells are extracted from the blastocyst, an embryonic stage reached shortly before implantation into the uterus. They have yet to differentiate, and are therefore pluripotent, meaning they are able to change into any type of cell. The use of embryonic stem cells causes much controversy, as their isolation leads to demolition of the blastocyst. Apart from ethical issues, occasional tumor (teratoma) formations have been noted after treatment with embryonic stem cells, conducted in facilities particularly outside of the United States. Several companies are currently looking into the isolation of particular lines of these pluripotent cells, so that they may be increasingly used for therapeutic purposes in the future.

Adult stem cells are also undifferentiated, but reside in the juvenile as well as adult body. They harbor the potential to renew the entire tissue from which they originate with just a few cells. Here ethical issues are of no concern, as these cells may be extracted without jeopardizing the subject. Most popular for therapeutic use are the bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, ‘mesenchymal’ because they reside in tissue that originally comes from mesoderm. This includes bones, cartilage, muscle and connective tissue, nerves, blood vessels, as well as fat. Bone marrow-derived stem cells may be cultured and multiplied for future use, as they are low in number. A suitable alternative is the extraction of adipose-derived stem cells, as fat contains significantly more mesenchymal stem cells compared to bone marrow.

How do adult stem cells work in the healing process?

Adult stem cells remain dormant as so called ‘progenitor’ cells until they register tissue injury. Then they embark to the lesion and stimulate the healing process. Whether these multipotent cells develop into the original tissue themselves or induce the repair by another mechanism is still unclear, but multiple animal models and a plethora of human evidence irrevocably prove their usefulness in the reparation process.

Which conditions can be treated with stem cell therapy?

Due to the ability of stem cells to differentiate into and reconstruct multiple types of tissue when damage occurs, their application in the treatment process of almost every disease or injury is warranted. However, stem cell therapy is better researched for some diseases than for others. In addition, as with every treatment, the chance for success depends largely on the patient himself. This includes progression of the disease, whether it is acute or chronic, and to what extent other organs and functional systems have been compromised. Age, body type, as well as general well being of the patient also play a role.

At Anova, specialists evaluate advantages, disadvantages and chances of success in order to determine whether a patient is a potential candidate for stem cell therapy. Although the procedure is minimally invasive, all patients are medically cleared in advance.

Are there any guarantees that stem cell treatment works for me?

The honest answer to this question is no, there is never a guarantee for success in any medical treatment. This is no different for renown or novel treatments, such as stem cell therapy. A number of factors determine success, such as state of the patient, complexity of the disease, as well as interaction of the stem cells with the patients’ immune system. However, stem cells are well researched by now, and thousands of successful applications worldwide prove their meaningfulness in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases.

What kinds of stem cells are used at Anova IRM?

All currently available stem cell treatments that are offered at Anova entail the use of adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), easily obtained from subcutaneous fat. Harvesting the stem cells from the patients’ own body ensures no adverse immunological reaction or transfer of diseases when the stem cells are re-administered. At the moment, Anova offers stem cell-based therapy in form of the Stem Cell Secretome from adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells. This treatment is stem-cell-based, but completely cell free.

Is the application of stem cells at Anova Stem Cell Center safe?

Numerous phase I and II studies have proven that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are safe for medical application, while several phase III studies are currently carried out. Neither tumor formation nor a threatening immune response could be observed. It comes to show that stem cells may not only be harvested from and re-implanted into the same individual (‘homologous’ MSCs), although this is particularly safe because the stem cells do not trigger immunological response and cannot act as vectors for infections from graft to host; MSCs may also be safely allografted, meaning the extraction from a human donor and injection into a genetically different human recipient, without causing rejection or diseases. Anova Stem Cell Secretome, the therapy we currently offer, is not only homologous, but also completely cell free, which minimizes the chance of adverse events immensely. we have not experienced or observed any adverse events so far.

How does stem cell treatment work?

At Anova IRM mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are obtained from subcutaneous fat.

MSCs from subcutaneous fat are extracted via nutational liposuction, which allows the removal of fat without stem cell destruction and requires only light sedation. First, ‘tumescent’ anesthesia is performed, meaning the infiltration of subcutaneous tissue with diluted local anesthetic. The fat is now pervaded with large quantities of saline (sodium chloride) solution. Next, the fat-saline mix is removed from the subcutaneous space and sampled for further processing. Processing includes enzymatic activity that separates fat tissue from the adipose-derived stem cells. Not all countries allow this method of separation.

In the very near future, we are offering the stem cell therapy with cells obtained from bone marrow. Bone marrow-derived stem cells are harvested under local anesthesia. A hollow needle is inserted into a specific site of the pelvic bone, the posterior superior iliac protrusion, passing skin and subcutaneous tissue. Bone marrow is then extracted using a syringe, and processed on site while the patient remains sedated. Next, the processed MSCs, as well as fluid containing the secretome (cytokines, microvesicles, mRNA, etc.), are re-injected into the patient. This procedure typically causes no pain, when performed with caution and by an expert.

What is the legal vantage point concerning treatment with adult stem cells?

Laws concerning organ transplants (a collection of tissue working together as a functional unit) as well as pharmaceutical drugs (substances that present properties for treating and preventing disease) are implemented in every country. Stem cells, however, do not definitely belong to any of the two categories, as they are single cells deriving from any tissue, as well as producing a variety of active substances, depending on the microenvironment to which they are exposed.

Because statute has oftentimes not yet adapted to this situation, the use of stem cells for medical purposes is restricted in many countries. Obtaining permission means lengthy evaluation processes for doctors, hospitals and companies. Some countries, however, including Japan and Oman, have adjusted laws or drawn up draft bills in order to make use of the tremendous potential of stem cells for medical treatment.

Anova makes stem cell therapy available for all patients by working within the legal framework of countries that support the use of MSCs, whilst adhering to the rigorous quality specifications of German and Swiss law. 

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