Because they are biologically younger and more flexible than stem cells obtained from other sources such as the blood or bone marrow, umbilical cord blood-derived stem cells are considered more potent. Also, they are more likely to develop into other types of cells like muscle cells, bone cells, and brain cells. There are two common ways to administer these stem cells into the patient during treatment. They can be either injected directly into the affected area or intravenously (through an IV).
Many experts believe that direct injection is the best mode of administration for umbilical cord-derived stem cells. According to studies, this method offers the significant advantage of a quick and relatively problem-free recovery. Also, many patients who have undergone injected stem cell therapy are already mobile (i.e. they can move without assistance) right after the treatment. Because the stem cells are directly administered into the affected area, there is little to no risk of them getting “lost” inside the body. As a result, the stem cells’ healing properties are quick to take into effect as compared to when the stem cells are applied intravenously.
When you say intravenously, it basically refers to the process of delivering something through a vein. IV is the simplest and least invasive method of applying umbilical cord stem cells, or any other type of stem cells for that matter, because it provides a quick and easy way to gain access to the bloodstream. Also, it requires the least amount of medical skill. However, just because it is the easiest, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the most effective or the safest.
According to experts, there are certain risks associated with administering stem cells intravenously. For starters, the cells are likely to coagulate and stick together, resulting in a blood clot. Another challenge is that trying to determine the complications and side effects of this mode of delivery is very difficult because the stem cells can end up literally anywhere in the body. On the other hand, if the stem cells are injected directly into the affected area, doctors need to observe only the part of the body where the stem cells are injected to determine if there are adverse side effects or complications.
The third risk is what they call the pulmonary first-pass effect. When we take medicine, some of them end up in the liver first before going into the bloodstream. This is called the hepatic first-pass effect. In the case of IV stem cell infusion, there are documented cases of the stem cells getting stuck in the lungs before they can do anything, hence, the pulmonary first-pass effect.
Although these stem cells may eventually exit the lungs and even excrete important cytokines and growth factors form the lungs, they may not be as potent and highly concentrated as before when they finally reach the area where they are needed. As a result, the patient may not get the same results as when they undergo injected stem cell therapy.