Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): A Powerful Addition to Stem Cell Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that enhances your body’s natural healing process through inhalation of 100 percent pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber or room. It is primarily used as an overall supportive therapy for recovery from a vast array of different injuries and illnesses, including:
- Traumatic Brain Injury1-3
- Depression and anxiety4
- Multiple sclerosis6
- Burn injuries7
- Systemic and skin infections8
The magic of this therapy comes from combining the high levels of oxygen with pressure. Healing cannot take place without adequate oxygen levels in the tissues. Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body by red blood cells in the bloodstream. Most chronic injuries involve damage to blood vessels (which carry these cells) in the affected tissues that are normally responsible for delivering oxygen to that area.
With HBOT, the pressure that’s applied in the chamber allows oxygen to be dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, the spinal fluid, the plasma, the bone, and the lymph, where it can be carried to areas where circulation has been compromised or blocked due to blood vessel damage. In this way, the extra oxygen can reach any damaged tissues that have poor circulation, allowing the body to support its own healing process.
Most illnesses and injuries occur, and often linger, at the cellular level of these tissues. In the case of circulatory problems, non-healing wounds, and strokes, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and the body’s natural healing ability is unable to function properly.
HBOT provides this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of immune cells to kill pathogens, reduces swelling, and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the damaged areas. However, most of the regenerative effects of this treatment actually don’t come from increased oxygen availability alone, but from the effects that both increased pressure and oxygen has on gene expression in the body.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Effects the Genome
In 2008, a study using advanced mass DNA analysis techniques found that a single hyperbaric treatment to the cells that line all of our blood vessels turned on or turned off more than 8,000 genes in the 24 hours following a single treatment.9-10 When the cells were given another treatment after 24 hours, additional genes were activated, and the cells began to roll up and form new healthy blood vessels.
The study also found that the genes that were turned on are the genes the code for growth and repair hormones (such as human growth hormone) and the anti-inflammatory genes. The genes that were turned off were the pro-inflammatory genes and those that code for programed cell death.
After that study was conducted, additional research found that different pressures and oxygen levels turn on different sets of genes. Oxygen was responsible primarily for turning on the genes and pressure for turning off the genes.
Essentially, HBOT is one of the safest and most effective natural gene therapy known to man. Each time a patient undergoes a hyperbaric treatment, the physician is essentially playing a symphony with their genes, using different pressures and amounts of oxygen to accelerate healing in various parts of the body. And when oxygen is under pressure, it acts like a natural drug that activates the DNA and other components of each cell, bringing about permanent changes in the cell and surrounding tissue.
Hyperbaric Oxygen May Enhance the Effects of Stem Cell Therapy
A variety of studies have shown that HBOT stimulates an endogenous increase in nitric oxide (NO) that seems to activate stem cells in the body and mobilize them to damaged tissues.11
It’s really the combination of this stem cell mobilizing effect with the massive growth hormone rise that makes HBOT so effective for accelerating the healing process. Growth hormone acts like “Miracle Gro” for stem cells, so it’s not surprising that so many regenerative medicine doctors are combining HBOT with stem cell therapy for an enhanced effect.
Additionally, in the treatment of acute conditions, HBOT affects the patient’s DNA. Evidence points to HBOT’s ability to reverse damage to the DNA or overcome a type of freeze that is put on the DNA from various insults. This effect can start to occur in one to two treatments in these cases. However, with more chronic injuries, many more treatments are needed to maximize results after stem cells are administered. These treatments are generally administered post stem cell injection, so that they can further enhance the regenerative effect that occurs in the months following stem cell therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen and Brain Injuries
World-renowned expert Dr. Paul Harch has been at the forefront of hyperbaric medicine and research for more than three decades. In his bestselling book The Oxygen Revolution, Dr. Harch stated that, over years of experimentation with HBOT, he and his team have discovered that the therapy’s “secret of success” is in its cumulative effect. Specifically, that after 25 to 35 treatments, the body’s tissues have been permanently changed.
These changes have been demonstrated by Harch’s team in many studies on patients with brain injuries, using a type functional brain imaging called SPECT, which monitors changes in brain metabolism and blood flow.12
The functional changes seen in the brains of patients with traumatic brain injuries, stroke, autism, and cerebral palsy after a round of hyperbaric treatments are profound. Some of these severely injured patients saw as much as a 80 to 90 percent improvement in their symptoms after a round of 40 one-hour treatments. This is largely due to the stem cell mobilization and the significant level of angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) that occurs during the treatments. Brain injuries almost always involve the damage of many blood vessels in the brain, which leads to a suffocating effect in the neural tissue that leaves the person impaired and unable to heal. Hyperbarics are able to help restore that blood flow and save the tissue, which can restore brain function.
- Hart BB, et al. Extended follow-up in a randomized trial of hyperbaric oxygen for persistent post-concussive symptoms. Undersea Hyperb Med. 2019 BIMA Special Edition. Feb;46(3):313-27.
- Tibbles PM and Edelsberg JS. Hyperbaric-Oxygen Therapy. N Engl J Med. 1996;334:1642-8.
- Harch PG. Hyperbaric oxygen in chronic traumatic brain injury: oxygen, pressure, and gene therapy. Med Gas Res. 2015 Jul 14;5:9.
- Feng JJ and LI YH. Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on depression and anxiety in the patients with incomplete spinal cord injury (a STROBE-compliant article). Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Jul;96(29):e7334.
- Gonzales-Portillo B, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: A new look on treating stroke and traumatic brain injury. Brain Circ. 2019 Sep 30;5(3):101-5.
- Amatya B, et al. Rehabilitation for people with multiple sclerosis: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Jan 14;1:CD012732.
- Weitgasser L, et al. Update on hyperbaric oxygen therapy in burn treatment. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2019 Nov 7.[Epub ahead of print]
- Goggins CA and Khachemoune A. The use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of necrotizing soft tissue infections, compromised grafts and flaps, hidradenitis suppurativa, and pyoderma gangrenosum. Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Pannonica Adriat. 2019 Jun;28(2):81-4.
- Godman CA, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen induces a cytoprotective and angiogenic response in human microvascular endothelial cells. Cell Stress Chaperones. 2010 Jul;15(4):431-42.
- Godman CA, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment induces antioxidant gene expression. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jun;1197:178-83.
- Chen C, et al. HBO Promotes the Differentiation of Neural Stem Cells via Interactions Between the Wnt3/β-Catenin and BMP2 Signaling Pathways. Cell Transplant. 2019 Dec;28(12):1686-99.
- Harch PG, et al. Case control study: hyperbaric oxygen treatment of mild traumatic brain injury persistent post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Gas Res. 2017 Oct 17;7(3):156-74.