Stem Cells for Autoimmune Conditions
Stem cells are regenerative, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory (which means they are able to affect the immune system). So in theory, stem cell therapy can be helpful in treating any disease process that is degenerative, inflammatory or autoimmune.
At the Stem Cell Center of Georgia at Ageless Wellness Center in Peachtree City, Dr. Jamie Walraven specializes in treating degenerative, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases without the use of surgery or pharmaceuticals.
“We’ve used stem cell therapy with a number of patients who have a variety of autoimmune disorders, but our primary experience has been treating those with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr. Walraven says. “Others have gotten improvement for conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and even Hashimoto’s disease (chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis).”
Terry Buyck was 41 when a doctor confirmed that the pain in her knees — a result of an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis — would only get worse with age, and eventually require full replacement. A decade later, the once healthy and active massage therapist could hardly walk or bend her knees at all, and the pain had become unbearable.
“I’m never one to ask for help,” Buyck says. “But when you’re in so much pain that you can’t function, it’s like your life has no purpose. What are you going to do?”
The idea of having both joints replaced terrified Buyck, who’d suffered an allergic reaction to metal plates and screws installed to repair a broken wrist years earlier. “I would try anything I could to avoid having knee replacements.”
That led her to Stem Cell Center of Georgia at Ageless Wellness and Dr. Walraven. Adipocyte (fat derived) stem cells were harvested from Buyck’s own fat through a mini liposuction. After a series of washes and concentrations, what remains is about 8 to 12 ml of stem cells plus growth factors.
Buyck had stem cell injections in both knees and a wrist. She also has had injections of platelet rich plasma, or PRP. The entire process is done in about four hours. Within two months, the wrist was pain free. Within four months, her left knee was fully functional. It took awhile longer for the right knee to heal, but a full year later it is now pain-free and fully functional as well.
“It’s amazing! My life has turned around completely,” Buyck says. “At one time, I couldn’t bend my knees at all. Now I’m actually able to squat down and get in the floor with my grandson. It saved me. I got my life back.”
Walraven says stem cell therapy should not be seen as a cure for autoimmune diseases, however.
“The process of autoimmune diseases is such that no one really knows what a cure would be,” she says. “The treatment plan should focus on trying to manage the disease better.”
In most cases, stem cell treatments can be repeated in the affected area as often as necessary. In light of that, stem cell therapy should be thought of as a really great tool in the toolbox, useful for getting someone out of a flare, regenerating tissue that may have been damaged, or slowing down progression of an autoimmune disease.