By now we know that stem cells are found in almost every tissue and organ in the human body. These stem cells play a critical part in our body’s attempt to repair injured tissue and organ cells. When our body’s cells are damaged, whether it is traumatic in nature (due to an outside force on the body) or ischemic (poor perfusion leading to a lack of oxygen) or due to inflammation, the injured cells send off chemical signals in our blood stream to tell our stem cells to come to that area and begin the healing process. When the stem cells reach the injured cells they are able to differentiate (become a more specialized cell type) and replace or assist the existing cells. The most abundant reservoir for stem cells in the human body is the bone marrow. The bone marrow is home to mesenchymal stem cells (MSC’s) that have the ability to differentiate into many different types of cells. Dr. David A. Steenblock, at the Personalized Regenerative Medicine clinic in Mission Viejo, Ca, is a leader in bone marrow stem cell-based therapies to treat a wide range of ailments. The conditions that the clinic treats with stem cell-rich bone marrow includes, but is not limited to, Stroke, TBI (traumatic brain injury), CHF (congestive heart failure), Cerebral Palsy, macular degeneration, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Osteoarthritis, among a host of others.
Hyperbaric Oxygen’s (HBOT) Role
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been used for over a century to treat almost all types of injuries, such as stroke, Cerebral Palsy, gangrene, and non-healing wounds. Now, even more recent clinical and university studies have shown HBOT supports the body’s production and mobilization of mesenchymal stem cells. Oxygen works on our stem cells on several different levels. HBOT mobilizes MSC’s from our bone marrow by a nitric oxide (NO) dependent mechanism we call NO synthesis. Nitric oxide is a chemical our body produces that is used as a signaling molecule. It is highly reactive and diffuses freely across membranes, making it an ideal substance for communication between adjacent cells, and within a single cell. Studies have shown that one of the major difficulties to stem cell therapy to repair ischemic damage is the low survival rate of transplanted cells due to poor oxygenation. Ischemic tissue cells send off a chemical signal to the body asking for stem cells to be released from the bone marrow to help repair damaged areas. Once the MSC’s get to where they are directed to go, they differentiate into more specialized cells and begin to heal damaged cells. HBOT supports this process and also delivers oxygen needed to facilitate and sustain cell repair. HBOT also assists stem cells by inducing placental growth factors (PIGF) in MSC’s. PIGF is a key molecule in angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels from existing ones, and vasculogenesis, which is the spontaneous formation of new blood vessels. It does this through oxidative stress pathways. A byproduct of oxidative stress, which is a imbalance between reactive oxygen and our bodies ability to detoxify, is redox signaling. This is important to us, because redox signaling tells MSC’s to differentiate and begin vasculogenesis. Two hours of HBOT at 2 ATA (atmospheres absolute) has been shown to double the amount of circulating stem cells in a person’s body in at least one study. While 40-60 hours of hyperbaric oxygen exposure (20 treatments x 2 hours) is purported to increase stem cells by 800%… 800%! As we age our bodies begin to lose the ability to naturally produce a sufficient number of stem cells to keep pace with maintenance & healing activities. HBOT is the safest and most effective way to support increased stem cell proliferation and likely far safer than any pharmaceutical treatment option. While drugs are associated with a host of known side effects, HBOT carries with it a significantly lower risk of such effects. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy not only supports MSC production & mobilization in vivo, but it greatly facilitates future treatments using stem cell-based therapies.
Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
- To fight infection: A fully oxygenated body will kill off any anaerobic bacteria, and will enhance the effectiveness of some antibiotics.
- To oxygenate ischemic tissue: Breathing oxygen under pressure dissolves more O2 into your body, oxygen is then delivered by plasma, which means parts of your body that are not getting sufficient amounts of blood are still getting sufficient amounts of oxygen.
- To “off gas”: By breathing 100% oxygen under pressure, toxic gases like carbon monoxide are forced out of the blood stream which greatly reduces the damage done by them.
- To promote vasoconstriction: Hyperbaric treatments causes the circulatory system to constrict, while still delivering sufficient amounts of oxygen, which helps in treating compartment syndrome by reducing edema, and reducing inflammation.
- To promote vasculogenesis and angiogenesis: HBOT induces growth factors in stem cells to help them differentiate and begin the formation of new blood vessels.
- To regain neurological function: HBOT stimulates blood flow, metabolism, and tissue growth in people with brain injuries. This reawakens dormant but living cells surrounding the injured area.