A Question about HGH and Stem Cells: The Regenexx Research Lab

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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regenexx research lab

A look into The Regenexx Research Lab….

I received an e-mail yesterday from a patient asking what I thought about HGH and stem cells, or more specifically adding (Human Growth Hormone) to stem cells. He stated that a Florida clinic routinely does this and other clinics have begun to emulate the practice. I responded that since we were unique as the only medical practice that had a full stem cell research lab, we had actually tested this back in 2008. We added HGH to isolated mesenchymal stem cells in the lab, as the published human data was very, very sparse (I found only two published papers, one that had been published in the late 70s). I was expecting great things based on what I had heard, but the experiment was a bit of a dud. The HGH only marginally decreased cell doubling time by about 15%, not enough for us to get excited about given the lack of safety data available for adding HGH to stem cells. To provide some scale, we could easily do better just by adding a more concentrated platelet rich plasma to cells, a practice where safety was well studied. The question yesterday brought up a key difference between our facility and every one else out there offering stem cell therapies. Because we have invested very heavily in a research lab, we routinely test our hypotheses in the lab. Yesterday I went into our Regenexx Research Lab research testing room (this is an area run more like a university lab, unlike the rest of the lab which is a clean room) and took some pictures to share this morning. I’ve posted those above. So what do you see?

ELISA-This is a computerized fluorescent plate reader that allows our scientists to run an ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay). This is a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance. So if we wanted to see how much total cartilage was being produced by stem cells, an ELISA might be helpful.

Real Time PCR-The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technology used to amplify a single or a few copies of a piece of DNA or RNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA/RNA sequence. For example, rather than waiting for cells to produce cartilage, this machine will tell us if those cells have begun to express certain genes that make the proteins that become cartilage.

Fluorescent Microscopy-This is a specialized microscope that can measure and see certain things that are tagged in individual cells or groups of cells. While we have many types of microscopes in the lab, this one would allow us to see what’s happening chemically inside cells. For example, in a recent study where we investigated the detailed events occurring inside stem cells as they were exposed to certain common local anesthetics, this scope allowed the research team to see what was happening with the calcium stores inside the cells as they interacted with the different anesthetics.

-Flow Cytometry-This is a machine that can see and count certain cell types. Cells are first labeled at their cell surface markers and then literally lined up in single file and marched past a laser detector. For example, this machine would tell the research team if the cells in a certain sample were mesenchymal stem cells, white blood cells, or platelets.

So as you can see, we have a unique and unprecedented ability as a medical clinic to answer simple or complex research questions to benefit our patients. Our Regenexx Network providers also benefit from this expanding knowledge base. So the question you need to ask of any clinic using stem cells is whether they have the tools to validate what they do, or are they doing something (like adding HGH) based on a guess?

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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