For more than a decade, doctors have been leveraging stem cell therapy as a treatment for lupus. The therapy is a hopeful option for patients for whom traditional medications have been ineffective. Find out what the treatment can do for this challenging condition below.
What Is Lupus?
Clinically referred to as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks otherwise healthy tissues and organs. Various systems in the body may be affected, such as the skin, kidneys, joints, heart, brain, and lungs. Tissues may become swollen and inflamed. Patients with lupus also tend to develop a telltale, butterfly-shaped rash on the face.
While lupus can develop in anyone, it’s seen most often in women ages 15 to 44. In fact, 90% of people with lupus are women. Although experts are still unsure of exactly what causes the condition, having family members with lupus or another autoimmune condition does appear to be a risk factor. In some cases, lupus may also be brought on by medications, including certain drugs for hypertension and heart arrhythmia.
In addition to the butterfly rash, some common symptoms of lupus include:
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Sun sensitivity
- Kidney problems
- Ulcers in the mouth
While discomfort in the joints and rashes are among the most common symptoms, in severe cases, the widespread inflammation caused by the illness’s autoimmune response can lead to organ failure.
Currently, there is no cure for lupus. Similar to other autoimmune conditions, treatments may include medications such as immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Yet, many of these medications present unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they remain ineffective in improving the patient’s symptoms.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Lupus
Over the past decade, several studies have been conducted to test the efficacy of stem cell therapy for treating lupus. According to one meta-analysis, mesenchymal stem cells have been shown to improve disease activity in patients. One study in particular identified changes in the lupus disease activity index, blood regulatory T cells, and renal function.
Stem cells are the foundation of all tissue and have the unique ability to give rise to many other types of cells. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to heal and replace damaged tissue. While everyone is born with stem cells, these powerful agents lose their efficacy over time and decrease in number. Yet, they can be extracted, isolated, and re-administered to patients as a powerful therapeutic approach.
With their remarkable properties in mind, researchers have been studying the use of mesenchymal stem cells to treat autoimmune diseases for years. The cells, which are commonly derived from adipose (fat), bone marrow, or donated cord tissue, have been shown to suppress T regulatory cell activity, thereby modulating the body’s immune system response in people with lupus. As a result, they can help to control inflammation and reduce symptoms.
Mesenchymal stem cells are further beneficial in the fact that they can be sourced directly from the patient, and are therefore readily available and less likely to be rejected. Moreover, they are among the most potent forms of cellular therapy available, making them one of the most promising treatment options for people with lupus whose symptoms have not diminished with traditional therapies.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions. Click here to learn more.