How Adult Stem Cells Can Help Stop Pain and Reverse Aging
By: Dave Asprey
July 26, 2018
I’m so excited to share one of my latest and greatest biohacking experiments: using stem cells to become younger and stronger. For years, using stem cells for chronic pain, recovery from injury, or even skin tone and texture was thought of as science fiction, a treatment reserved for the ultra-rich, or worse – a controversy. Today, these therapies are widely available and have worked wonders for my family and me.
“What stem cells do is go in and communicate with other cells,” says Matt Cook, one of the most cutting-edge regenerative medicine doctors in the world, in a recent Bulletproof Radio (iTunes) podcast episode.
Here’s an example of how stem cells work: They might migrate to your knee and notice that there’s a bunch of inflammation in the knee and then they’ll migrate into the tissues. That’s where the magic happens.
“They might call a fibroblast to help make a tendon, or they might call in another cell, or, if there’s no fibroblast available, they might turn themselves into one,” says Cook.
Here you’re going to learn about what people are really doing with stem cells, what’s real, what’s not, and where to go if you want to do it. As you know, I am a guinea pig and professional biohacker, so I like to try things before I recommend them.
The anti-aging benefits of stem cell therapy
I’ve had stem cells injected pretty much all over my body in multiple countries – so now you don’t have to! In fact, I’m the second person ever to have stem cells injected into my brain for preventative reasons. (The first was the doctor who did my procedure!)
The human body’s ability to heal on its own is impressive. With a little help from stem cell therapy, it goes from impressive to almost unbelievable. And it’s not just about healing injuries – reversing aging is all about healing and recovering from stress and strain like a young person. Healing is core to resilience. Extracting your own stem cells and then injecting them with intention can upgrade your biology in science fiction-esque ways.
Stem cells for medical issues
Stem cells can return sight to blind people and hearing to deaf rodents. They repair connective tissue, helping with everything from spinal injury to a torn Achilles tendon. They may be able to regrow lost teeth. They’ve restored the brains of patients that suffered strokes, months after the stroke happened. But there are risks – people have actually lost their vision, and using stem cells that aren’t from your body can cause weird things to happen in rare instances. Like teeth growing somewhere in your body where they don’t belong. Eeewww.
Stem cells to make you younger
Even if you don’t have any medical issues, stem cell therapy offers a lot. It curbs aging by keeping your skin collagen and elastin-rich. It makes your joints stronger and more pliable. It can even increase (ahem…) length and girth.
For the first time, stem cell therapy is becoming legally available to the general public, although it’s in a gray zone. I’ve had a full-body treatment done. Actually, several. And I injected them into my brain three times and plan to do it twice a year until I’m at least 180. Stem cell therapy is one of the biggest things I’ve found that really moves the needle when it comes to anti-aging. (Pun intended.)
Here are my thoughts, along with what you need to know about stem cell therapy.
What is a stem cell?
Stem cells are the play dough of the human body. They’re ready to be shaped into any kind of tissue the body needs. Depending on the type you use, stem cells can turn into muscles, bones, joints, and even brain cells. Or yes, boy parts. Or girl parts, if you’re so equipped. (My wife Dr. Lana did that procedure, and the results are amazing!)
Stem cells in their own are helpful, but they work better when you pair them with growth factors to guide them in the body. Growth factors are like guard rails: they keep the stem cells on the road until they reach their destination.
Stem cell therapy involves pulling stem cells from one part of your body, mixing them with growth factor from your blood, bone marrow, or other sources, and injecting them into another part.
If going to a doctor isn’t in your budget, you can stimulate stem cells and growth factors on your own with a few lifestyle hacks. In fact, most of the practices in The Bulletproof Diet and Head Strong improve stem cells, in part because mitochondria (the power plants of your cells and the main topic in my books) heavily influence your stem cells.
More on that in a moment. First, let’s talk about how to use stem cells.
What kinds of stem cells should you use?
When I did my stem cell therapy, I used mesenchymal stem cells. They’re in every joint in your body, working to keep your connective tissue strong.
Over time, normal wear and tear can break down your joints, especially if you put them under a lot of stress. Mesenchymal stem cells release proteins that curb inflammation, keeping your joints strong. They also signal for repair, bringing in nutrients that fix damage. Stem cells can also turn into the type of tissue your body needs, replacing tissue entirely.
As you age, stem cell production drops. Your body often can’t keep up with repair, especially if you injure yourself. I’m doing fine, but I wanted to boost my stem cells before any real problems came up. I worked with Dr. Harry Adelson (hear him on Bulletproof Radio here) to get treatments all over.
Some anecdotal benefits of stem cell therapy:
- Smoother skin. So many friends have started asking me what I do for my skin because of the obvious changes. Stem cells are a big part of it. (So is eating Bulletproof Collagen, and using Alitura skin care.)
- Flexibility. I was able to get into yoga poses that I’ve never achieved, even though I am way out of practice.
- Range of motion. My wife, Dr. Lana, fell out of a 30-foot tree as a kid and landed on her shoulder, freezing it her entire adult life. Acupuncture, chiropractor visits, adjustments – none of them improved things in any measurable way. Stem cell therapy opened up her shoulder’s range of motion dramatically. In three days.
- No pain. Every injury site I have has enjoyed a stem cell treatment, and I don’t have chronic pain. (Unless I eat inflammatory stuff, in which case I deserve it.)
- Cognitive results? It’s hard to say what the stem cells did or didn’t do, given that I’m doing the Bulletproof nootropics, new Head Strong techniques, 40 Years of Zen neurofeedback, and light therapy. Basically, I’m all in when it comes to my brain and stem cells are a part of that. It’s working better than ever!
- Dangly bits. You can get up to 20% more length and girth from the P-shot (stem cell injections into your bits), no kidding. But you have to use a medical grade pump for 30 days after the procedure to create micro-tears in the corpus cavernosum so the stem cells cause them to heal. But pumping takes like 40 minutes a day, which wasn’t really worth it to me. But still, “more youthfulness” is something that happened. 🙂 When Dr. Lana had stem cells into injected into her vaginal walls and clitoris in a procedure called the O-shot, it also lived up to its name. Without getting too graphic (she’d hit me), let’s just say that those parts are waaaay more youthful too. She recommends it to all her friends and to many of her fertility coaching clients after childbirth.
- Heart health. A family member had a heart valve problem that was life threatening and required surgery to repair. Six weeks after getting intravenous stem cells, the problem spontaneously resolved to the astonishment of his heart doctor. Surgery canceled!
- Longer life. For Christmas, I got my parents stem cell treatments so they will be around longer. Both experienced a reduction in pain and increased healing.
How is stem cell therapy done?
Stem cell banking
When you get your stem cells extracted, it requires either liposuction for fat stem cells, or bone marrow, or both. But those are painful procedures so some doctors will allow you to send your stem cells to a facility that amplifies the stem cells and stores them for later use. Do this if you can afford it. This is a legal gray zone (the FDA says that if they are amplified they’re a drug, yet many physicians will offer it outside the U.S.) The reason you want to do this is that if you are ever injured, say with a traumatic brain injury or any major trauma your stem cells could save your life. The younger you are when you get your stem cells banked, the better off you are, because stem cells are more effective when you’re younger.
I was fortunate to be able to get my stem cells legally banked, so I have them available for regular use!
Where to get your stem cells done
If you’re looking into stem cell therapy, you’ll likely find doctors in two camps. Doctors extract stem cells from either bone marrow or fat.
- Bone marrow: Stem cells from bone marrow are better studied, so there’s a good amount of data suggesting good results. They work for almost everyone…but you’re only getting tens of thousands of stem cells from bone marrow.
- Fat: Stem cells from fat are newer. There’s less research on them and results are less consistent (about 30% of people don’t seem to respond to fat-derived stem cells). However, you get millions of stem cells from fat and those who do see results see significantly better healing.
I worked with Dr. Harry Adelson at Docere Medical because he’s a pioneer. He uses both kinds of stem cells – bone marrow and fat – because he finds patients get the best of both worlds: the consistency of bone marrow-derived cells and the more impressive healing of fat-derived cells. I’ve also worked with Kristen Comella and Dr. Robyn Benson, both of whom I’d recommend.
Lifestyle hacks for stronger stem cells
If you don’t want to go all-in with stem cell therapy, here are a few other ways to activate your stem cells.
- Sleep. A Stanford study found that sleep deprivation decreased stem cell activity in mice by about 50%. How long you sleep is less important than the quality of your sleep. Here’s a guide to hacking your sleep.
- Stress. Decreased stress makes your stem cells better at repairing DNA damage, which slows down your aging and makes you more resilient to injury. Destress with this biohacker’s guide to meditation, or use these six ways to manage stress.
- Fasting. Going without food for a few hours boosts stem cell activity by about 20% in both mice and humans. Try Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting to get the benefits of fasting without the hunger.
- Cut out sugar. Decreasing sugar makes adult stem cells live longer and run better. Increasing sugar actively destroys stem cells. Stick to a low-carb diet like the Bulletproof Diet to supercharge your stem cells (get the complete one-page illustrated Bulletproof Diet for free here).
- Spirulina. Mice fed spirulina for 28 days grew new stem cells, and the ones they had were more resilient to stress. No studies in people yet, but Spirulina could keep your stem cells thriving and has other benefits as well.
- Colostrum. Colostrum is what many baby mammals eat first few days of their lives. Bovine (cow) colostrum contains dozens of unusual compounds, including a number of growth factors that stimulate stem cell production. Bulletproof Upgraded Whey contains colostrum.
Want a more in-depth look at stem cells from some of the world’s experts? Check out these episodes of Bulletproof Radio:
- The Healing Powers Of Stem Cells
- These Ain’t Your Neighbor’s Stem Cells
- The Real Deal On Stem Cell Therapy For Pain Conditions
- Treating And Curing Erectile Dysfunction With Stem Cell Therapy
Thanks for reading and have a great week!
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