Stems cell therapy is somewhat new to the scene when it comes to interventions for chronic Lyme disease. There are two ways to obtain stem cells: one way is through embryonic stem cells you get from another human. The other is from fat stem cells gathered from fatty tissues in your body (autologous).
Stem cells are pluripotent cells, meaning they can become any other cells in the body — heart cells, liver cells, immune cells, etc. When they’re injected into parts of the body, like the joints or the bloodstream, they may help restore certain functions. For example, if you have a compromised immune system, stem cell therapy is, theoretically, a way to provide it with some reinforcements.
Our understanding of embryonic stem cells for treating any type of illness is still in its infancy. While it’s promising, there’s still a lot to learn. As for its application to Lyme disease specifically, there’s limited research on the topic. Anecdotally, I’ve known two patients who have had embryonic stem cells so far, and both of them only had mild benefits that didn’t last.
On the other hand, autologous stem cell therapy for joint regeneration is now widely performed and accepted across the country. For individuals with loss of joint cartilage great enough to be considering joint replacement, this is a very reasonable first alternative to consider.
Because embryonic stem cell therapy is a newer option for chronic Lyme disease, there’s not much information regarding the safety, and we don’t know what their long-term effects might be. However, autologous stem cells don’t require donor cells, so the risk associated with their use is reduced.
Possibly the biggest drawback for embryonic stem cells is a high initial cost for an unknown procedure with little assurance of a positive outcome. Autologous stem cell therapy may be covered by insurance, depending on the condition that’s being treated.
Dr. Bill Rawls’ Treatment Guide
Want to see more Lyme disease treatment ratings? See What Dr. Rawls has to say about popular treatments and therapies in his Lyme Disease Treatment Guide.
1. Horowitz R, Freeman PR. Improvement of common variable immunodeficiency using embryonic stem cell therapy in a patient with lyme disease: a clinical case report. Clin Case Rep. 2018;6(6):1166-1171. Published 2018 May 2. doi: 10.1002/ccr3.1556