What about these “amniotic membrane stem cells” I’m seeing advertised?

Clinics are popping up offering “stem cell therapy off-the-shelf” without having to undergo a bone marrow aspiration or lipoaspiration. While there are no data comparing autologous stem cells to amniotic membrane preparation, these are two very different things that don’t really compare.

The first thing to understand is that stem cells do not survive the freeze-drying process these amniotic membrane compounds undergo. Therefore, these “stem cells” being advertised are not living stem cells, they’ve been destroyed. The amniotic membrane preparations do however contain growth factors found in stem cells. So if you get an injection of amniotic membrane compound, you are getting a burst of growth factors that can be helpful in the short term, but you are not getting living stem cells that can help in the short and long term.

Based on this, it seems to us that amniotic membrane compounds might be helpful in cases where you still have a healthy stem cell population in the target location (a case where we would use PRP anyway, not stem cells), but if you have completely depleted your stem cell population such as in advanced osteoarthritis, amniotic membrane compounds will not repopulate your knee (for example) with stem cells like you will if you have your own living stem cells transplanted from your bone marrow or fat into your knee. We think that if you are going to compare amniotic membrane compounds with anything, it should be PRP (which is a lot less expensive).

The second thing to consider (or maybe the first) is that clearly, the amniotic membrane compounds come from a person that is not you, and further, from a person neither related nor even known to you (gross). We would rather use our own stuff from our own bodies. It’s personal preference.