Recent findings published in the Journal of Translational Medicine report the first ever treatment of autoimmune diseases with fat-derived stem cells. The article is entitled “Stem cell treatment for patients with autoimmune disease by systemic infusion of culture-expanded autologous adipose tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells,” and contained contributions from researchers in five different countries: South Korea, United States, Japan, China, and Germany.
The senior author, Jeong Chan Ra, president of RNL Stem Cell Technology Institute, and his collaborators were successful in treating patients with autoimmune diseases who had experienced severe tissue damage as a result of their diseases and had limited treatment options.
Autoimmune diseases are caused by mis-regulation of the immune system that allows the body’s immune system to attack the very tissues and organs that house it. There are different kinds of autoimmune diseases which include systemic lupus erythematosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hearing loss, spastic myelitis, Bechet’s syndrome and so on. Symptoms of autoimmune diseases are long-term, and these diseases often caused permanent damage.
In previous work, Ra’s team demonstrated the safety of intravenously infused adipose (fat)-derived stem cells in humans. Patients who received multiple stem cell infusions showed no adverse effects and no severe side effects. In this present study, the team showed that infusions of these stem cells were effective in treating diseases that ranged from autoimmune hearing loss, multiple sclerosis, polymyositis, atopic dermatitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, in this study.
In the case of autoimmune hearing loss, the patient was administered with her own stem cells. Her hearing returned to normal (scaled out to 15 decibels) even though she had previously not responded to steroid treatments.
A multiple sclerosis patient suffered severe side effects from high dose steroid treatments and had difficulty walking. However after infusions of her own stem cells, her condition improved tremendously, and she was able to move her legs using her own muscular strength.
Other autoimmune diseases treated in this paper were patients with multiple sclerosis, atopic dermatitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, all of whom were not able to be treated with existing medication. However, after multiple infusions of their own fat-derived stem cells, their illnesses became manageable.
Researchers are continuing to develop sophisticated stem cell technology using five grams of fat as a standard, which can be expanded to 1 billion stem cells. This technology became more efficient and convenient for patients because repetitive stem cell injections are possible from one time fat extraction. These studies also showed that the fat-derived stem cells were capable of homing to the site of damage where they were able to suppress the inflammation that was the cause of the pathology and symptoms of these diseases. These patients required less surgeries, transplants and fewer drugs.
Dr. Ra said: “The fact that we showed the way patients can be treated from their own stem cells is very rewarding to me. We are working towards becoming our country’s medical hub for treating autoimmune diseases.”