Most Frequently Asked Questions About Stem Cells

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialised cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources:

  Adult tissue (adult stem cells). Adult or somatic stem cells exist throughout the body. Their primary role is to repair or maintain the tissue in which they are found. 

 Embryonic stem cells. As the name suggests, these cells are derived from embryos.  Typically the embryos have been created through fertilisation procedures within the clinical laboratory. 

What is the controversy surrounding stem cells?

Adult stem cells are not surrounded by the same controversy as embryonic stem cells. Many groups who are against the use of embryonic stem cells, fully support the use of adult stem cells in the treatment of human disease.

What stem cells are used in research by Melbourne Stem Cell Centre?

Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells.  These cells are tissue specific and intimately involved in tissue repair and regeneration.

 How are Stem Cells obtained/collected at MSCC?

Through a process called adipose tissue harvesting or as we call it lipoharvest.  Each patient’s own fat tissue is collected by a medical clinician via mini-liposuction procedure. The procedure is minimally invasive and performed using local anesthetic. We conduct this procedure within our purpose built theatre and recovery area. The harvested tissue later undergoes further processing with the isolation and expansion of the stem cell population performed within an accredited laboratory. 

Is the therapy safe?

Two recent systematic reviews of published clinical trials using MSCs have concluded that MSC therapy appears safe.

For comprehensive information on these trials, please refer to articles:

Lalu, ML., McIntyre, L., et al. (2012) “ Safety of cell therapy with mesenchymal stromal cells (safe cell): A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials”, PLOS One; 7(10), open access e47559

Peeters, CM., Leijs, MJ., et al. (2013) “Safety of intra-articular cell-therapy with culture-expanded stem cells in humans: a systematic literature review” Osteo Cartilage; 21(10): 1465-1473.