Stephen Holt, MD, PhD, DSc, LLD(Hon.) DNM, ChB, FRCP (C), MRCP (UK), FACP, FACG, FACN, FACAM, KSJ, Distinguished Professor of Medicine (Emerite)

Adult stem cells are present in many organs including: the bone marrow, digestive tract, heart and brain. Adult stem cells are multipotent with variable plasticity. The adult stem cell lives in a niche environment from which it is displaced, mobilized in the circulation and recruited to regenerate diseased or ailing tissues. Several experiments, in vitro and in vivo, imply that human mesenchymal bone marrow stem cells may differentiate into several somatic adult cell types. The use of adult stem cell technology has been perceived as widely acceptable in medical practice because it rests on the relative safety and effectiveness of human bone marrow transplantation, but regulatory issues concerning adult stem cell therapy remain to be defined. Several drugs, biological agents and nutritional factors exert effects on the mobilization and disposition of quiescent adult stem cells. A number of nutritional co-factors exert effects on supporting the differentiation of stem cells (e.g. bone marrow stem cells require vitamin D, B12, folic acid and iron for maturation). Recent studies imply that single or combination formulations of natural substances may promote the mobilization of stem cells. Such natural agents include, but may not be limited to: carnosine, blueberries (and other anthocyanidins containing botanicals), green tea derivatives and components of algae (fucoidans and pigments). In conventional medical practice, a number of drugs have been utilized to stimulate bone marrow stem cell activity (e.g. Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor, GM-CSF). In addition, various combinations of cytokines can facilitate the growth of stem cells in vitro (e.g. IL-1, IL-3, IL-6, erythropoietin and stem cell factor). In vitro comparisons of specific synergistic formulae of putative stem cell supporting nutrients with the actions of the drug GM-CSF imply that such combinations of nutrients may increase bone marrow stem cell proliferation to a degree greater than the drug GM-CSF1. Whether or not mobilized adult stem cells can be recruited in a consistent manner and result in engraftment to replace diseased or ailing tissues requires further investigation and this subject has attracted legal controversies with regulatory authorities. There have been many anecdotal reports of benefit following the use of nutritional agents to support adult stem cell structure and function, but these reports are largely in testimonial format. However, it is recognized that adult stem cells are often “tissue specific” in their homing characteristics. Moreover, diseased or degenerating cells produce a variety of chemical messengers (e.g. cytokines) or have alterations of cell surface receptors that may attract reparative adult stem cells. A key, but sometimes overlooked, factor in all adult stem cell technology is to protect the utilized stem cells (insitu or exogenous allograft administration) from oxidative stress by the use of REDOX balanced antioxidants which are present in several nutritional factors that promote stem cell structure and function (e.g. fucoxanthin in brown algae)2,3. I have hypothesized that stem cell functions can be enhanced by the use of agents that may assist in stem cell transformation or differentiation in-vivo, in a similar manner to which stem cells are transformed in vitro. While the act of pushing a stem cell to differentiate towards a type of adult somatic cell of a specific organ type can be achieved in vitro, I propose that it is possible to further facilitate the promotion of the differentiation of uncommitted adult stem cells in vivo by the use of several “transforming” factors which remain to be completely defined. There has been no experience of homeopathic agents in the promotion of adult stem cell recruitment, but this approach seems feasible and worthy of further exploration. I anticipate the day when insitu adult stem cells can be manipulated to become one of the primary therapies of choice in the field of stem cell technologies.

Bickford PC, Tan J, Shytle RD, et al. Nutraceuticals synergistically promote proliferation of human stem cells. Stem Cells Dev. 2006 Feb; 15: 118-123
Holt S. A Primer of Natural Therapeutics: A Certification Course for Dietary Supplement Counselors. The Holt Institute of Medicine Press, 2008.
Holt S. Fucose Complexes, Fucoxanthin, Fucoid and Fat Storage, Townsend Letter, Jun 2008, 87-92.

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