So, several patients have asked me whether if their aging, adult regenerative cells offer so much promise, wouldn't shiny new fetal regenerative cells be even better? Have physicians just taken the path of least resistance and caved to the religious right and political pressure? It's a fair question and one I seriously asked myself, but after much investigation, I can honestly say most researchers and physicians feel autologous (your own) adult regenerative cells have greater potential to reduce your pain and disability than any embryonic cell from the lab.
But why? Couldn't fetal regenerative cells grow and divide more vigorously? Yes and no. Although fetal regenerative cells can divide and develop into new cell types, so can adult regenerative cells and your own cells have a number of distinct advantages:
1) They're your own cells. The DNA in your cells is yours. These are cells your body has to repair and replace your injured cells. No lab or pharmaceutical company will ever come up with an exact match for you like your own body can. Also, embryonic cells which are modified so they can continue to divide long past what their natural signaling designs are prone to develop DNA errors.
2) Adults retain large numbers of regenerative cells throughout their lifespan. As long as you have a small amount of fat or bone marrow which can be safely harvested, there is no evidence that regenerative cell counts are any higher in younger patients. In fact, the highest cell yield we have seen was in a 76 year old woman.
3) Embryonic regenerative cells are designed by nature to grow and divide into embryos. As a result, they naturally tend to grow into clusters or balls. Adult regenerative cells tend to grow in sheets, theoretically forming a natural film or bandage over damaged tissue.
Any major company hoping to patent a regenerative cell therapy is going to have to create either a modified cell line which could be used in all patients (they can't patent your cells) or a system to harvest/prepare these cells. That's where the money is, and unfortunately cash drives a great deal of research. That doesn't mean these therapies are safer, or better. It's to you to research your own options, but you can feel comfortable knowing that your own body does offer treatment options for you which offer great promise.