What Are MUSE Cells?

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This past year we’ve seen physicians advertising that they’re using MUSE cells. What are these? Why are they important and why should you care? Is this fact, fiction, hype, or something else?

What are Muse Cells?

Multilineage-differentiating stress enduring cells (MUSE cells) are pluripotent cells, meaning stem cells that can differentiate into many other cell types. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are also pluripotent, but the difference between ESCs and MUSE cells is the latter live in adult tissues. Scientists have also found a way to induce pluripotent stem cells from garden variety adult cells called iPS, but this process creates genetic problems in the cells. Hence, the fact that our adult bodies have MUSE makes them special.

In order to answer the question “What are Muse Cells”, it’s very important to focus on the “S” in MUSE because it stands for “stress.” MUSE cells become activated in your body only under extreme circumstances of stress and duress. What kind of stress exactly? Isolating and activating MUSE cells means exposing fat or bone marrow (both repositories of MUSE cells) to several very harsh conditions that destroy all other viable cells.

Basically, MUSE cells are the doomsday mechanism that could keep you alive if all the other cells in your body were dying. Despite the fact that MUSE cells are made by killing other helpful cells, some physicians claim to be isolating and using MUSE cells clinically? Is this possible?

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Study Shows Harsh Process Needed for Activating MUSE Cells

One study published in 2013 reveals the psychotic conditions that are required to activate and isolate MUSE cells. Basically, the process requires multiple methods of destruction to do the job, and, indeed, the authors of the study did everything but nuke the cells. They used lengthy incubation times and exposed the material to a chemical called collagenase (a chemical that destroys cells) for a long period of time. Additionally, the material was also put under hypoxic, or low oxygen, conditions while at very low temperatures (4ºC). The purpose, and result was to kill off all the other viable cells and release and activate the MUSE cells.

Were they able to release the MUSE cells? Yes. But at what cost? The harsh destructive methods activated MUSE cells but killed all the other viable cells in the process. Could they be used clinically? Unlikely. As the study above reveals, the lengthy process to activate MUSE cells would negate the ability to use these in a same-day procedure. The process would clearly be well beyond any FDA guidelines for cells being used in the practice of medicine.

The upshot? So are physicians really using clinically relevant MUSE cells in the same day stem cell procedures being offered here in the U.S.? Nope. While there may be MUSE cells in lots of stem cell samples being injected, unless you want to nuke all of the other stem cells, they’re not active!

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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