Can It Be Too Hot or Cold for Stem Cells? Your Doctor Likely Has No Idea…

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Using live cells is very complex, but most clinics don’t know what they don’t know. So let’s focus on one small little part of this process today to demonstrate how difficult this can be. Let’s review how important temperature is to a successful stem cell therapy.

Temperature and Stem Cells

Stem cells like body temperature, which is the environment in which they live. However, remove them from their warm and fuzzy environment and the right temperature can preserve them while the wrong temperature will kill them. Let me explain.

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The Simplest Cell Storage Device Isn’t Present at Almost All Clinics Doing This Type of Work

The simplest way to store biologic samples once they leave the patient’s body and before they go back into a patient is at 4C. This is cold enough to reduce the metabolic activity of the cells and preserve them, but not cold enough for ice crystals to form, which kill cells. However, the device that stores cells at this precise temperature is absent from almost all clinics that advertise that they use stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

A Super-Duper Expensive Fridge

Most clinics would go to Best Buy to get a fridge to store cells or platelet-rich plasma. The problem? The temperature on these fridges is not precisely controlled. We’ve all experienced getting food out of a fridge that should be cold but, in reality, is partially frozen. If this happens to cells, they will die. Hence, the Best Buy fridge is below the standard of care. Despite this, 99% of clinics that store these biologic samples for the short-term utilize a standard fridge. Why? They have no idea what they’re doing.

So what does a real scientific/medical fridge look like that’s designed to keep the temperature in a close range? See my video below for the model we use in our Colorado HQ. It’s significantly more expensive and has alarms and data recording if the temp gets out of range. It’s also been manufactured to reduce hot or cold zones within the unit. Hence, it’s far safer to use to store stem cells or PRP from the time these things leave the patient’s body until they go back into the patient.

Why Your Chiropractor or Orthopedic Surgeon Also Lacks the Right Equipment to Store Cells

A trend right now is for chiropractors, acupuncturists, age-management doctors, orthopedic surgeons, and podiatrists to purchase vials of “stem cells” obtained from birth tissues. Our testing has shown these samples to be dead tissue, despite manufacturer claims to the contrary. More on that topic in my video below:

However, if these products have any chance of having any living cells, they MUST be stored at the right temperature. The problem? The temperature the manufacturer states they must be stored at is not possible in 99% of all doctor’s offices or clinics.

The package insert on these products (the ones that are shipped frozen and claim to have live “stem cells”) state that they must be stored at -80C. The problem? Your freezer at home and the one in doctor’s office can only get to -20C. Why is that a big deal? Live cells that have been properly frozen to eliminate killer ice crystals (usually with DMSO) can be stored forever at -150C (roughly the temperature of space). Cells can be stored for a few months at -80C. However, -20C is not recommended for storing cells as it’s too warm and will degrade the health of the cells.

For example, your doctor orders some cells that arrive frozen in dry ice at about -80C. He or she then places them in a regular freezer at -20C, and the patient who was to be injected the next week no-shows. The patient then returns weeks or months later, but the storage of the cells at more than a day or two at -20C means that any chance they had of being viable (which was very small to begin with—see my video below) is now pretty much zero.

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Most Clinics Have No Idea of the Difference Between -20C and -80C

So what can you do to protect yourself? First, recognize that amniotic or umbilical cord “stem cell” treatments generally have no live cells. Therefore, if a clinic says they are stem cell treatments, then that’s a scam. These products do contain growth factors and, therefore, can be used to help heal things, like tendons, in specific medical circumstances.

However, ask the next tough question as well. Ask the clinic employee to use his or her cell phone and take a quick picture of the freezer used to store these cells. If there is no freezer and the cells are stored at room temperature, they are, by definition, dead as any chance they have of being alive requires a -80C freeze. If there is one, ask the employee to text you the picture. You’ve seen what our in-clinic fridges look like, which is very different from the type you get at Best Buy. Now this is what a real -80C freezer looks like:

Notice the digital readout that says “-80.” Hence, if the picture you get looks more like something from Best Buy and less like this scientific -80C freezer, you’re dealing with amateurs and not experts. So run!

The upshot? Temperature is critical when dealing with cells. Too much or too little and cells die. Hence, make sure the self-proclaimed experts you see are real experts with the right equipment to keep your cells, or even someone else’s, in tip-top shape.

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. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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