Research Supports Using Fat Stem Cells to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
A Panamanian-led, multidisciplinary research team has published the first description of non-expanded fat stem cells in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis patients. "Autologous Stromal Vascular Fraction Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rationale and Clinical Safety," which appears in the International Archives of Medicine, followed 13 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were treated with their own fat-derived stem cells.
Treating arthritis with fat-derived stem cells has become commonplace in veterinary medicine over the past five years with over 7,000 horses and dogs treated by publication contributor Vet-Stem, a San Diego-based company. The objective of the joint Panamanian-US study was to determine feasibility of translating Vet-Stem's successful animal results into human patients.
Observing no treatment associated adverse reactions after one year, the team concluded that its protocol should be studied further to determine efficacy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
“While we have previously published case studies on the use of fat stem cells in multiple sclerosis patients, and one rheumatoid arthritis patient, this is the first time that comprehensive follow-up has been completed for a larger cohort of patients,” said Dr. Jorge Paz Rodriguez, Medical Director of the Stem Cell Institute and research team leader.
An important distinction that separates this particular approach from those which are being explored by several international investigators is that the fat stem cells were not grown in a laboratory, affording a substantially higher level of safety and protocol practicality.
“This work signifies Panama's emergence into the burgeoning field of translational medicine,” commented Dr. Ruben Berrocal Timmons, the Panamanian Secretary of Science and publication co-author. “We are proud to have attracted and collaborated with internationally-renowned stem cell clinical researchers such as Dr. Michael Murphy and Dr. Keith March from the Indiana University School of Medicine Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine, Dr. Boris Minev from the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Dr. Chien Shing Chen from Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center and Dr. Bob Harman from Vet-Stem. By leveraging their vast, collective clinical experience with Panamanian scientific infrastructure and know-how, we are striving to develop effective, internationally recognized stem cell procedures that will be accepted the world over.”
The treatment procedure involves a mini-liposuction, collection of the fat's cellular component, processing to obtain a population of cells that includes stem cells, freezing the cells in preparation for quality control, and subsequent re-administration of the cells into patients.
The Panamanian-US group has previously shown that there is a specific type of T cell, called the T regulatory cell, associated with fat stem cells, which is capable of suppressing pathological immunity. Their current theory is that the T regulatory component of the fat is capable of slowing down or suppressing the “autoimmune” reaction, while the stem cell component causes formation of new tissue to replace the damaged joints.