Meniere’s Disease and Stem Cells

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I love answering patient questions and recently I got an interesting one about Meniere’s Disease and stem cells. Let’s dig in.

The Question

“I am a sufferer from Menieres Disease which is a chronic illness of the inner ear causing hearing loss, vertigo attacks, dizziness, tinnitus and many other associated symptoms.
I’ve seen a number of clinics claim to be able to treat this successfully using stem cells. Some use stem cells from your own body, some use umbilical cord stem cells and a clinic I have come across in Germany have used stem cells from sheep.
I run a charity representing Menieres Disease patients and we have been looking into this procedure.
I was wondering if you had any evidence of success of this procedure in treating inner ear diseases and which stem cell procedure would likely be most successful?
Best regards
John Ingram”

Medical illustration showing the inner ear affected by Meniere’s disease

Chu KyungMin/Shutterstock

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Meniere’s Disease and Stem Cells?

First, I went to the US National Library of Medicine and ran several searches on Meniere’s Disease and various types of stem cells. The search for mesenchymal stem cells and Meniere’s Disease yielded no hits. Broadening that search did yield a few articles. However, a careful review of those showed that none were clinical trials showing that stem cells would be effective for treating this problem. In addition, there wasn’t even a single patient case report published.

How Could Stem Cells Help Meniere’s Disease?

Right now, we don’t really know what causes Meniere’s Disease. We do know that it may have something to do with an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear. How would stem cells help that or how would you apply them? Your guess is as good mine.

Stem cell therapy can work by reducing inflammation or replacing or repairing damaged tissue. In this case, if this type of therapy were to work, the cells would have to be carefully placed in the inner ear, but at this juncture, it’s not clear what they would repair.

Stem Cell Scams Abound

The first thing to know if you suffer from Meniere’s Disease is that there is no such thing as umbilical cord “stem cells” available in the US. All of the products that these clinics use, based on testing now by 3 university labs and our lab show that these birth tissue products contain no living and functional mesenchymal stem cells. This is contrary to the claims of clinics. To learn more, see my video below:

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Overlaps Between Meniere’s Disease and Stem Cell Treatable Conditions

While there’s likely no credible mechanism to explain why stem cells would help a Meniere’s disease patient, there is some hope for dizziness and vertigo patients without hearing loss. These patients often get lumped together in the Meniere’s disease box, but many often have dizziness and vertigo that comes from the upper neck. How does that work?

First, these are patients that usually have headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and/or visual changes but don’t have issues with one-sided hearing loss. They have these symptoms because the upper neck joints provide information to the brain that has to be synchronized with information from the inner ear and eyes. When the data coming in from the upper neck joints due to an injury or arthritis doesn’t correlate well with the other inputs, the patient can experience dizziness, imbalance, or vertigo. Since these joints can also cause head pain, that’s a common symptom as well. In addition, this upper neck input also helps the eyes track properly, so visual problems are common too. See my video below for more info:

The problem with this condition, called “cervicogenic dizziness” is that ENT doctors tend to have little understanding of the cervical spine, hence while they tend to be really great at diagnosing Meniere’s disease, they are really poor at catching the cases of cervicogenic dizziness. Hence, many patients with the later problem get lumped in with the former.

If you have cervicogenic dizziness, precise stem cell or platelet-rich plasma injections into the upper neck joints can often help the issue. These would be real stem cells or platelets derived from the patient and these injections require a super-specialist physician who uses x-ray guidance to place the cells precisely in those joints.

The upshot? There is no credible stem cell therapy for Meniere’s disease at this point, so please don’t waste your money on clinics that have thrown this chronic condition on a list of things they treat. These clinics don’t even offer live stem cells, let alone a cure for Meniere’s disease. On the other hand, if you’re actually a cervicogenic dizziness patient who got misdiagnosed as having Meniere’s disease, we may be able to help.

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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