Postcard from the Future! This Is What 20 Million Real Stem Cells Look Like…

by Chris Centeno, MD /

This is Dr. Centeno. I’ll be guest blogging at the Centeno-Schultz website for a while due to upgrades we’re making to the Regenexx blog. Right now, I’m down in Grand Cayman at our licensed, advanced culture-expansion site. This morning, while performing a stem cell injection, it occurred to me that the average patient, and just about every physician on earth now using some sort of stem cells, has never seen culture-expanded mesenchymal stem cells in a syringe, so I took a quick video. Let’s delve into this a bit more this Black Friday!

How Big Are MSCs?

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Mesenchymal stem cells also go by the acronym MSCs. Each one is bigger than a red blood cell and smaller than the largest blood cells (macrophages). Hence, they are typically 10–14 microns. In the image above, I have strung 10 of them across the width of a 100-micron human hair to give you a sense of size.

They also love to aggregate (or clump together). As you can see above, they clump at the bottom of this very small 1 cc syringe. These were grown in our licensed lab in Grand Cayman for a patient’s orthopedic procedure.

What Do Millions of Stem Cells Look Like?

One of the more bizarre things out there is the amniotic and cord-blood stem cell scams. These companies and the physicians that sell them often claim that there are tens or even hundreds of millions of stem cells in a vial. Are there really? Nope. Please watch my video below on that topic:

[VIDEO=240]

So what would 300 million real MSCs look like? If you look at my video above, that’s 20 million stem cells that occupy 0.2ml. These fake amniotic and/or cord-blood stem cells are typically sold in 1 ml vials. Hence, if you had 100 million, the vial would be a solid mass of cells. It would, in fact, look more solid than liquid. There would be no way to fit 300 million stem cells in even a 2 ml vial; they just wouldn’t fit. Hence, that vial of clear amniotic fluid or the vial of cord blood that looks like your blood can’t have hundreds of millions of stem cells.

Why Is This a Postcard from the Future?

Our practice in Colorado has been using culture-expanded MSCs to treat orthopedic problems longer than anyone on earth. That’s 13 years to date. However, sometime in the next 3–7 years, we will see these cells hit the market as FDA-approved products. Meaning, your doctor will have to figure out what to do with all of those clumped MSCs he or she was sent. So now you can remind your doctor that he or she needs to “shaken and not stirred” (James Bond reference) before injecting them!

At our advanced culture-expansion site in Grand Cayman, we grow the patient’s bone marrow stem cells to larger numbers. What are the advantages of being treated there? They include the following:

The ability to treat many different areas and structures with high doses of stem cells. For example, while we would definitely have enough stem cells in a same-day bone marrow draw to treat one whole rotator cuff and perhaps the other side, if we wanted to treat both of those plus add in tendons around the hip, the back, and then both knee joints, this wouldn’t be possible in the U.S.; hence, we take those patients down to Grand Cayman.

The ability to freeze stem cells for future use. In Cayman, we can store your cells at your current biologic age and use them in the future. That’s something we do for several NFL players, and we can do for the average patient as well.

Check out my Cayman video below:

The upshot? I thought on this Black Friday that I’d give you a peek at what real stem cells look like. In addition, knowing what the real deal looks like can help you easily identify the fraud that’s happening out there. Now go grab some Thanksgiving leftovers and take a break from the mall!

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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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