FAQs

New Zealand Stem Cell Treatment Centre uses your own adipose derived stem cells for deployment and a data collection programme. Early stem cell research has traditionally been associated with the controversial use of embryonic stem cells. The new focus is on non-embryonic adult mesenchymal stem cells which are found in a person’s own blood, bone marrow, and fat. Most stem cell treatment centers in the world are currently using stem cells derived from bone marrow.

A recent technological breakthrough enables us to now use adipose (fat) derived stem cells. Autologous stem cells from a person’s own fat are easy to harvest safely under local anesthesia and are abundant in quantities up to 2500 times those seen in bone marrow.

Clinical success and favorable outcomes appear to be related directly to the quantity of stem cells deployed. Once these adipose derived stem cells are administered back in to the patient, they have the potential to repair human tissue by forming new cells of mesenchymal origin, such as cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons, nerve, fat, muscle, blood vessels, and certain internal organs. Stem cells’ ability to form cartilage and bone makes them potentially highly effective in the treatment of degenerative orthopedic conditions. Their ability to form new blood vessels and smooth muscle makes them potentially very useful in the treatment of peyronies disease and impotence. Stem cells are used extensively in Europe and Asia to treat these conditions.

We have anecdotal evidence that stem cell therapy is effective in healing and regeneration. Stem cells seek out damaged tissues in order to repair the body naturally. The literature and internet is full of successful testimonials but we are still awaiting definitive studies demonstrating efficacy of stem cell therapy. Such data may take five or ten years to accumulate. In an effort to provide relief for patients suffering from certain degenerative diseases that have been resistant to common modalities of treatment, we are treating with very high numbers of adipose derived stem cells obtained from fat. Adipose fat is an abundant and reliable source of stem cells.

NZ Stem Cell Treatment Centre’s cell harvesting and isolation techniques are based on technology from Korea. This new technological breakthrough allows patients to safely receive their own autologous stem cells in extremely large quantities. Our treatments are patient funded and we have endeavored successfully to make it affordable. All of our sterile procedures are non-invasive and done under local anesthesia. Patients who are looking for non-surgical alternatives to their degenerative disorders can complete a candidate application form to determine if they may be eligible candidates. NZ Stem Cell Treatment Centre is proud to be state of the art in the new field of Regenerative Medicine.

Adult (non embryonic) Mesenchymal Stem Cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to replace dying cells and regenerate damaged tissue. These special cells seek out areas of injury, disease and destruction where they are capable of regenerating healthy cells and enabling a person’s natural healing processes to be accelerated. As we gain a deeper understanding of their medical function and apply this knowledge, we are realising their enormous therapeutic potential to help the body heal itself. Adult stem cells have been used for a variety of medical treatments to repair and regenerate acute and chronically damaged tissues in humans and animals. The use of stem cells is not FDA approved for the treatment of any specific disease in the United States at this time and their use is therefore investigational. Many reputable international centres have been using stem cell therapy to treat various chronic degenerative conditions as diverse as severe neurologic diseases, renal failure, erectile dysfunction, degenerative orthopaedic problems, and even cardiac and pulmonary diseases to name a few. Adult stem cells appear to be particularly effective at repairing cartilage in degenerated joints.

Regenerative Medicine includes stem cell and stromal vascular fraction therapy, processes which use your own living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue dysfunction due to damage, or inflammation. Damaged tissues are stimulated to heal themselves, in the presence of appropriate growth and healing factors.

Traditionally, we have used various medications and hormones to limit disease and help the body repair itself. For example, hormone replacement therapy has, in many cases, shown the ability to more optimally help the immune system and thus help us repair diseased or injured tissues. Genetic research is an evolving area where we will eventually learn and utilise more ways of specifically dealing with gene defects causing degenerative disease. Stem cell therapy is an innovative area of medicine that has shown considerable promise in treating many degenerative conditions.

A stem cell is basically any cell that can replicate and differentiate. This means the cell can not only multiply, it can turn into different types of tissues. There are different kinds of stem cells. Most people are familiar with or have heard the term “embryonic stem cell.” These are cells from the embryonic stage that have yet to differentiate – as such, they can change into any body part at all. These are then called “pluri-potential” cells. Because they are taken from unborn or unwanted embryos, there has been considerable controversy surrounding their use. Also, while they have been used in some areas of medicine – particularly, outside the United States – they have also been associated with occasional tumour (teratoma) formations. There is work being conducted by several companies to isolate particular lines of embryonic stem cells for future use.

Another kind of stem cell is the “adult stem cell.” This is a stem cell that already resides in one’s body within different tissues. In recent times, much work has been done isolating bone-marrow derived stem cells. These are also known as “mesenchymal stem cells” because they come from the mesodermal section of your body. They can differentiate into bone and cartilage, and probably all other mesodermal elements, such as fat, connective tissue, blood vessels, muscle and nerve tissue. Bone marrow stem cells can be extracted and because they are low in numbers, they are usually cultured in order to multiply their numbers for future use. As it turns out, fat is also loaded with mesenchymal stem cells. In fact, it has hundreds if not thousands of times more stem cells compared to bone marrow. Today, we actually have tools that allow us to separate the stem cells from fat. Because most people have adequate fat supplies and the numbers of stem cells are so great, there is no need to culture the cells over a period of days and they can be used right away.

These adult stem cells are known as “progenitor” cells. They remain dormant until they identify some level of tissue injury which activates them. With a degenerative problem, stem cells migrate to the area of need attached to receptors to stimulate the healing process. They have the ability to replicate (multiply), and differentiate (change into the tissue needed for repair), mediated by intercellular signalling. Many animal models and human trials evidence their significant reparative action.

This will depend on the type of degenerative condition you have. After you have been evaluated as a potential candidate for stem cell therapy you may be recommended for treatment. When you have considered the potential risks, benefits and costs involved, you may choose to select this nonsurgical treatment. Although a minimally invasive procedure, you will still need to be medically cleared for the procedure.

NO.

The NZ Stem Cell Treatment Centre’s stem cell/ SVF medical procedures are decided between the doctor and patient prior to proceeding with treatment. As an affiliate of the CSN group, NZSCTC follows the Investigational Research Board, (IRB) of the FDA, approved protocols and guidelines for the treatment and manipulation of patient’s own tissues. Same day treatment with the patient’s own cells is minimally invasive, prior to deployment within 1 to 2 hours usually.

No cell expansion or other laboratory manipulation is undertaken at NZSCTC.

No.

Embryonic stem cells are associated with ethical considerations and limitations, which includes the risk of tumour formation such as teratoma.

Only adipose-derived adult mesenchymal stem cells are used. These cells are capable of forming bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, ligaments, blood vessels, and certain organs.

Patients suffer from many varieties of degenerative illnesses which may affect any aspect of the body. A full medical evaluation prior to making a treatment decision is recommended.

Stem cell therapy is the likely key element of the developing field of regenerative medicine. Human clinical trials have increasingly been reported over the last 10 years overseas. As yet this treatment is still considered unproven and an innovative therapy. Observation of patients undergoing stem cell therapy will contribute to establishing optimal parameters for treatment, whilst noting their effectiveness and any adverse effects. Increasing publication of this observational data over time will clarify these issues.

Many are seeking a non surgical option that is minimally invasive for treatment of their medical condition. The results of stem cell treatments in animals and humans have been increasingly reported over many years. NZSCTC informs patients desiring convenience, quality and affordability about possible autologous stem cell treatment if it is considered appropriate. This may help avoid unnecessary overseas travel seeking treatment.

Stem cells are harvested and used (deployed) during the same procedure in 2-3 hours. Fat is harvested by a minimally-invasive liposuction procedure from your abdomen or flanks. This takes less than 30 minutes, done under local anaesthesia alone. SVF including stem cells are then laboratory processed, ultra filtered, ready for deployment within 90 minutes. No cell expansion or other additives are employed. Your own stem cells mixed with many growth and healing factors are used.

Bone marrow sampling is an uncomfortable procedure yielding lower numbers of stem cells. These are then cultured over days prior to deployment (injection into the patient) to increase the relatively poor cell count from  5,000 to 10,000 cells per ml. Bone marrow aspirates of 100 mls are usual.

Much higher numbers of stem cells are obtained from readily available fat via a mini liposuction procedure.

Harvesting 50 mls of fat yields approximately 500,000 to 1 million stem cells per ml of fat. 

10 to 40 million stem cells may be available for treatment.

Fat can be re-harvested readily for repeat treatment in the future if required.

Fat is harvested by a minimally invasive mini-liposuction procedure under local anaesthetic. Approximately 50 mls is removed in under 30 minutes from the abdomen or flanks usually, with consideration given to achieving an optimal cosmetic result. An elasticated back support is worn for 24 hours to reduce bruising.

Special equipment is used to harvest and isolate the SVF from the lipoaspirate.

Post-operatively, bruising and minimal discomfort may be felt. There is minimal restriction on activity. You are able to drive or fly immediately on discharge.

Fat is harvested under sterile conditions, and prepared using a semi closed system.  Air exposure throughout the entire process from removal to deployment is virtually nil. Sterile technique is maintained throughout the entire procedure to prevent infection. The CSN protocols for skin preparation and disinfection are followed.

No.

Only you own (autologous) cells are used.

There can be no contamination with foreign DNA.

Facilities obtaining stem cells from bone marrow, placenta, dental pulp, or blood achieve relatively small numbers of cells. Culturing of cells in the laboratory (growing, or “expanding”) is required  to create adequate quantities. This is a multi-staged process which necessitates a number of other risks.

NZSCTC uses the most common source of mesenchymal stem cells – which is fat – providing 2,500 x the numbers found in bone marrow.  Stem cells are isolated in vast numbers in a short period of time. Culturing is unnecessary. Cells can be used for treatment (deployed) within 90 minutes of harvesting.

No.

NZSCTC established the first clinic in Australia and NZ using the CSN method in 2015.  Clinical data on outcomes and safety of SVF therapy is optionally collected by CSN, with the patients consent if they choose to do so. Results of the aggregated non-identifiable data will continue to be published in peer review literature. Ultimately this will advance knowledge of cellular based regenerative medicine.

No guarantee of beneficial outcome can be given to prospective patients. No benefit is a possible outcome.

Medical regulations prevent publication of testimonials.

No.

Many are confused by this because they have heard of cancer patients receiving “stem cell transplants.” These patients had ablative bone marrow therapy and need stem cells to re-populate their blood and marrow. This is different from the stem cells we deploy to treat noncancerous human diseases at NZSCTC.

Adult mesenchymal stem cells are not known to cause cancer.

Anecdotal stories of cancer caused by stem cells are related to the use of embryonic/ foetal cells (not adult mesenchymal cells). These rare embryonic tumours (teratomas) are possible with the use of foetal cells.

Stem cells should not be used in patients with known active cancer.

It is considered safe and not affecting those with dormant cancer. With successful cancer treatment, there is no reason to withhold stem cell therapy.

We know of no documented cases where serious harm has resulted. Numerous animal studies have been published demonstrating the safety and efficacy of SVF therapy.

Patients can choose to enter a CSN data collection programme to follow them up to record clinical progress and any adverse outcomes. This information is vital to the development of stem cell science.

Any reports of serious complications will be thoroughly evaluated.

The International Stem Cell Society registry has over 5,000 cases currently registered and only 2% of the treatments were associated with any complications, none of which were considered “serious adverse events.”

None.

Our aim is to make cell based medicine available to patients. Ongoing outcome data provided over time by patients who elect to join the multinational multicentre CSN Data Collection Programme (DCP) will contribute to their  Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved study. CSN will follow these patients for two years. This will enables significant data to accumulate about many degenerative diseases treated with SVF.  Changes in pain scores and any adverse outcomes over time are recorded and aggregated non-identifiably for possible future publication.

NZSTC makes no claims about the success of the intended treatment. This is a new therapy using your own cells in your body, not “medicines” for sale.

The first reported analysis of the CSN DCP was published in the American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery in February 2017, with documented safety and effectiveness.

The CSN DCP database  may contribute to a future approved International Registry (See ICMS Stem Cell Registry).

Roche collagenase is used to break down the stroma in the harvested fat to liberate stem cells, growth and healing factors (SVF). The collagenase is of course removed prior to deployment. No other foreign substances or medications are added in the laboratory preparation.

PRP is not used in this method of lab preparation or deployment. It is significantly less effective than SVF therapy and has shown no benefit when used concurrently with SVF so has been abandoned.

How are the cells deployed?Depending on the type of treatment required, stem cells can be injected through veins, arteries, into spinal fluid, subcutaneously, or directly into joints or organs. All of these are considered minimally invasive methods of introducing the stem cells. Stem cells injected intravenously are known to “seek out and find” (see photo) areas of tissue damage and migrate to that location thus potentially providing regenerative healing. Intravenously injected stem cells have been shown to have the capability of crossing the “blood-brain barrier” to enter the central nervous system and they can be identified in the patient’s body many months after deployment. Note yellow arrow showing the stem cells concentrated in the patient’s hand where he had a Dupytren’s contracture (Dupuytren’s contracture is a hand deformity that causes the tissue beneath the surface of the hand to thicken and contract).

Different conditions are treated in different ways with varying degrees of success. If the goal is regeneration of joint cartilage, one may not see expected results until several months after treatment. Some patients may not experience significant improvement at all. Others may improve dramatically with significant resolution of symptoms such as pain, weight gain, depression, and poor mobility with osteoarthritis for example.

Medical regulations prevent NZSCTC from making any claims about expectations for success. If you are chosen for treatment, stem cell therapy may be beneficial.

With stem cell/SVF therapy,  the regenerative process takes time. Tissue repair may reflect an improvement in symptoms over weeks or months. No improvement may be noticed for 3 or 4 months with severe conditions. An early reduction in pain, mobility or other symptoms can occur promptly from the action of growth and healing factors (cytokines) which are powerful anti inflammatory agents.

Neurodegenerative  disorders such as multiple sclerosis will require a series of treatments. Most arthritic joints require a single treatment.

No.

Some medical conditions can be treated with SVF at NZSCTC, following the CSN approved protocols.

The first step in the process is to complete a candidate application form on this website which is reviewed by our medical team. A full medical assessment is required prior to SVF treatment in our facility.  Some patients may be declined as unsuitable. We encourage you to discuss this with your GP prior to application.

Yes.

Patients who are breastfeeding, pregnant, children and those with uncontrolled cancer or if severely ill are excluded.

Active infections should be treated prior to SVF therapy.

Anyone with a bleeding disorder or who takes blood thinning medications requires special evaluation before consideration for stem cells.

The NZSCTC doctor  will make a determination based on your history and examination, radiology studies, relevant lab and medical reports. The multinational CSN physician network provides wide peer support.

No.

Participation in the multinational CSN Data Collection Programme (DCP) is not mandatory, and does not affect patient treatment protocols. Patients can opt in or opt out.

There are no incentives, financial or otherwise, to induce patients to participate in the DCP. NZSCTC’s patients can contribute to the data collection programme which may assist in the development of stem cell science. Privacy will be maintained.

Any future publication of this aggregated data will be of course non identifiable.

NZSTC is not treating patients with autism, active cancer, uncontrolled infection, spinal cord injuries, and any other diseases not included in the CSN list of approved protocols for treatment.

See list of problems currently being studied by CSN.

Patients who are considered suitable for treatment based on the candidate application form will be invited for a medical consultation which costs NZD  $250 including GST.

Following a full assessment, a written quote will be provided for SVF treatment. Typically this will be $8-12,000 NZD. Repeat procedures are discounted. In cases of financial hardship, a reduced fee may well apply.

Private medical insurance and ACC does not cover the cost of stem cell treatments currently.

 

Because of recent innovations in technology, NZSCTC is able to provide outpatient stem cell treatment at a fraction of the cost of that seen in many overseas clinics. The fee covers fat cell harvesting, cell preparation, and stem cell deployment.

Stem cells can be cryopreserved for prolonged periods of time in liquid nitrogen is specialised facilities in Australia and the USA.

There is a significant cost but this may allow ready availability of your stem cells by culture preparation should there be a medical need in the future.

Most patients, especially those with orthopaedic conditions, require only one deployment. Some degenerative conditions such as auto-immune and neurodegenerative disease may respond to a series of stem cell deployments.  Any other future treatments would be decided on a case by case basis. Financial consideration is given in these instances.

There is a lot of information available on the internet. References for published articles can be provided on application for specific diseases. You may like to view our libraries via this link:

A good resource is the International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS). Stem Cells 101