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Amniotic Stem Cells v. Embryonic Stem Cells

Author: Tim Bert, M.D.

What’s the difference between embryonic and amniotic stem cells?

Stem cell therapy has received a lot of news coverage in the last few years. For many people outside the research and medical professions, it can be difficult to understand the differences between the various types of stem cells and therapies.

Embryonic stem cells are the stem cells most frequently labelled as “controversial” because their harvesting causes the destruction of an embryo. One reason proponents are in favor of embryonic stem cells is that the cells are pluripotent. This means that they can differentiate into all three primary germ layers and can generate all of the 220+ cells found in the adult human body. The potential of embryonic stem cells may well be limitless.

Amniotic stem cells, on the other hand, are derived from the amniotic sac. The stem cell injections we use here at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute are derived from amniotic fluid through a very rigorous, safe, and ethical process you can read about here. Most people have no ethical concerns about the use of amniotic stem cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells, these cells are not pluripotent. They are “multipotent,” which means they can only differentiate into certain cell types.

Why use amniotic stem cells?

Access to embryonic stem cells in the United States is currently limited to clinical trials. So, for the time being, amniotic stem cells are the only option for people who want a stem cell therapy with a proven track record.

Additionally, amniotic stem cells have some unique benefits when compared to embryonic stem cells. For one, they are immunoprivileged, which means that patient-rejection is extremely rare. Also, amniotic stem cells divide faster, show no signs of age, and can remain stable for years without developing tumors. In fact, amniotic stem cells can be frozen to -65ºC or colder for years without deteriorating or causing any adverse side effects.

What’s the future of stem cell therapy?

No one knows for sure. However, we’ve been getting good results at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute with the use of BioDFactor® Viable Tissue Matrix. If you’re interested in learning more about stem cell injections and their use in sports medicine, give us a call at 602-553-3113.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.

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