Stem cells are
typified by their capacity to regenerate and differentiate into multiple cell
(Railton, 2017). They can be grouped into three major groups: adult stem
cells, embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) (Wang et al., 2017). The ability for
self-renewal and multiple differentiation of stem cells has been broadly
studied in the field of regenerative medicine. Interestingly, recent studies
reveal that synthetic stem cells can present more valuable therapeutic benefits
than their counterpart natural stem cells (Tang et
al., 2016). In this review, we centre on the current advance in synthetic stem
cells, the cost of stem cell therapy, the countries that allow stem cell
therapy, and we also discuss how patients can find facilities for stem cell
therapy and how they can pay for it.
Current advance in synthetic stem cells
In recent times, stem cell therapy has dramatically improved medical outcomes in regenerative medicine. However, it is required that cells should be cautiously preserved and processed before usage. Researchers from North Carolina State University conducted one of the most outstanding studies on synthetic stem cells. According to them, synthetic stem cells can stand more harsh conditions such as freezing and thawing, and they are more durable than human stem cells (North Carolina State University, 2016). In their study, a synthetic form of a cardiac stem cell was developed, and these researchers engineered a synthetic cell-mimicking microparticle (CMMP) to recapitulate stem cell functions in tissue repair (Tang et al., 2016).
The CMMPs operate by carrying similar secreted
proteins and membranes as the authentic cardiac stem cells do, and they mimic
the natural stem cell operations in therapeutic cardiac regeneration (Tang et
al., 2016). It was concluded that these synthetic stem cells had improved
preservation stability compared to other types of stem cells, and they could
decrease some of the risks related to stem cell treatments. Evidently, current
advances in synthetic stem cells could definitely allow patients to receive,
when required, a useful off-the-shelf stem cell product without costly
The cost of stem cell treatment
The cost of stem cell treatments varies depending on how they are administered. The cost of isolating stem cells cost between $600 and $1,800, and a single stem cell injection can cost between $1,500 and $10,000 depending on who administered the injection (Orthopedics Today, 2017). For instance, in the United States, where health insurance companies do not cover stem cell treatments and where many stem cell therapy products are not FDA-approved, patients have to pay for the stem cell treatments themselves (Orthopedics Today, 2017). Many American hospitals charge averagely $10,000 per therapy, and patients who receive more than one of these non-FDA approved therapies have to pay each time of course.
There are some hospitals in the USA that have reduced their price to $8,000 or less. Inadvertently, the cost of stem cell treatments outside the United States is much higher than what is being charged in the US. Outside US, it can cost between $20,000 and $100,000 (ipscell, 2015). Notably, whether it is inside or outside US insurance still has no obligation to cover the costs of these stem cell therapies. The recent update reveals that a non-FDA approved Stemedica stem cell intervention purportedly costs $32,000 to $40,000 a pop (ipscell, 2015).
Countries that allow stem cell treatment
There are laws in
different countries of the world regulating the sources, research and uses of
stem cell treatment in humans. In countries, such as Belgium, Britain, Denmark,
Finland, Greece, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, stem cell research with the use
of human embryo is allowed, while this is unlawful in Austria, Germany,
Ireland, Italy, and Portugal. In the United States, there are diverse views
regarding stem cell research. However, countries such as Australia, China,
Japan, India, Iran, Israel and South Korea support stem cell research
wholeheartedly. Countries that allow stem cell treatments include Japan, the
United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Israel, Germany, Singapore, and China
(Dhar and Hsi-en Ho, 2009).
In the US, there is a long list of clinics offering stem cell treatments. In Japan, scientists are permitted to carry out stem cell research for therapeutic purposes. Singapore is supportive of stem cell treatments, and it is generally regarded as the Asia stem cell centre. It has authorised the use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes especially embryos that have not exceeded two weeks old. Mexico is well-known for its blossoming stem cell industry. Mexican physicians are currently using stem cells for treatment of various ailments. Presently, the Chinese, the Germans and the Israelis are among the frontrunners in the global stem cell therapy (CryOCell International, 2017).
would the patient find a facility for stem cell treatment and have to pay for
There is a wide variety of stem cell therapies now available in America at over one hundred stem cell clinics providing non-FDA approved interventions for various conditions. The typical way patients find facilities for stem cell treatments in America is through the Internet. Through Internet American patients are frequently enrolled to travel around the US, Mexico or other countries to access stem cell treatments (CryOCell International, 2017). After getting a suitable facility through the Internet, patients may book appointments and later pay via online transaction before or after reaching their designated stem cell clinics. Many people travel as far as China, Germany, and Israel to access facilities for stem cell treatments. The Internet has made stem cell medical tourism easy (CryOCell International, 2017).
CryoCell International (2017). Stem cell tourism and other experimental treatments. CryoCell International.
Dhar, D., and Hsi-en Ho, J. (2009). Stem cell research policies around the world. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, (82):113-115.ipscell (2015, February 22).
North Carolina State University (2016, December 26). Synthetic stem cells could offer therapeutic benefits, reduced risks. Science Daily. Retrieved March 11, 2018
Orthopedics Today (2017, June). Controversy, cost may not dim potential of stem cells in the shoulder. Orthopedics Today.
Railton, D. (2017, December 12). What are stem cells and why are they important? Medical News Todays.
Tang, J., Shen, D., Caranasos, T.G., Wang, Z., Allen, T.A., Vandergriff, A., Hensley, M.T., Dinh, P., Cores, J., Li, T., Zhang, J., Kan, Q., and Cheng, K. (2016). Therapeutic microparticles functionalized with biomimetic cardiac stem cell membranes and secretome. Nature Communications, 2016
Wang, M., Yuan, Z., Ma, N., Hao, C., Guo, W., Zou, G., Zhang, Y., Chen, M., Gao, S., Peng, J., Wang, A., Wang, Y., Sui, X., Xu, W., Lu, S., Liu, S., and Guo, Q. (2017). Advances and prospects in stem cells for cartilage regeneration. Stem Cells International, Volume 2017