The secretome consists of all factors (components) that are produced by living cells and secreted into the extracellular fluid. These factors, including soluble proteins, lipids, free nucleic acids, and exosomes, enable cells to communicate and interact with each other. Communication between cells influences many important processes involved in our well-being. Dysfunction of intercellular interaction has serious health consequences and contributes to the development of a number of diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, certain neurological conditions, immunological disorders, cancer and other hard-to-treat medical conditions.
The therapeutic use of secretome components produced by stem cells has shown their high regenerative potential. From this article, you will learn why the stem cell secretome can help in the treatment of diseases, how it works, and what its advantages are.
What Is Stem Cell Secretome?
During their cycle, cells produce and secrete various substances into the surrounding space – these substances make up the secretome. They help cells to interact with each other and influence many essential metabolic processes. Thus, the secretome components have biological activity.
It is known that stem cell secretome components are beneficial for therapeutic use. These substances include growth factors – proteins that promote cell growth and stimulate tissue proliferation – as well as cytokines involved in the regulation of the immune response.
Another important component in the manifestation of the therapeutic effect of this form of treatment is the stem cell exosomes, which are also found in the secretome.
Stem Cell Exosomes and Their Functions
Exosomes are membrane-bound vesicles, similar to tiny packets, that transport substances between cells. They are produced inside cells and then released out to travel in the intercellular environment. These microvesicles provide a form of communication between cells, being in a way like letters exchanged by them. It is assumed that exosomes are powerful mediators: they transmit the signals that cause mechanisms necessary to change the behaviour of other cells.
Since these extracellular vesicles circulate in the blood, they can act both locally and in remote areas of the body. Recipient cells recognize and accept exosomes due to special proteins. Once absorbed by other cells, these vesicles are able to program the recipient cells and influence their metabolism.
According to some data, stem cell exosomes have greater therapeutic efficacy than other microvesicles released from mesenchymal stem cells (MSC).
Therapeutic effects of stem cell exosomes
Stem cell exosomes have a special biochemical composition. They also contain micro-RNA – genetic material they receive from the cell they were secreted by. Thus, the exosomes of MSCs will affect the surrounding cells, by changing the physiology of a cell-recipient, in the same way as the stem cells, themselves, would do.
When used therapeutically, exosomes exhibit the following properties:
- they activate differentiation (the process by which cells acquire certain functions);
- they stimulate proliferation (cell division in tissues);
- they regulate the regeneration process;
- and increase the survival of local cells.
These properties can help in the treatment of many medical conditions associated with damage to various types of tissues (for example, muscle, nerves, specialized organ tissues, as well as skin).
Diseases That Can Be Treated by the Stem Cell Secretome
- neurodegenerative and neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and fibromyalgia;
- rheumatic diseases (arthritis, gout, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus);
- central nervous system (CNS) pathologies, including post-stroke condition, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury (TBI);
- lung diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis);
- digestive pathologies (cirrhosis of the liver, inflammatory bowel diseases, peptic ulcer);
- dermatological conditions (psoriasis, eczema, ulcers, burns, photo-ageing);
- post-COVID conditions.
This list is not exhaustive. If you have not found your disease on the list, please contact our medical advisor. You will be provided with information about the possibility of treatment in your case, and about the expected results.
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Unlike stem cell therapy, when treated with MSC secretome, the patient receives only biologically active substances that were obtained from these cells, and not the cells themselves.
How Secretome-Based Product Is Prepared
- Material rich in MSCs is collected.
- The stem cells are isolated and cultured in a favourable artificial environment.
- The secretome components, produced by the cells, are extracted from the environment in which the cells are cultured.
- The quality of the material obtained is assessed in the laboratory (concentration and identity of secretome components, biological sterility).
When stem cell secretome components are used as a therapeutic product, they can be administered via different routes, depending on the medical condition and desired outcomes. These may include:
- infusions (intravenous delivery via a drip)
- local injections into the affected area
- local applications (masks, baths, drip installations, etc.)
Donor or own cells?
At Swiss Medica, both the patient’s own cells and donor cells can be used to obtain a therapeutic dose of the secretome. Donor cells, however, have advantages. Firstly, they provide an opportunity to start therapy immediately due to the fact that a ready-made product is available. Secondly, cells from the donor material are usually more powerful because they are obtained from the tissues of a young and healthy donor (when the placenta or umbilical cord serves as the source of cells).
Are there any side effects or adverse reactions?
Since the product for therapeutic use contains only the secretome and not the cells themselves, even minimal negative reactions as a result of treatment are excluded. However, the preparation and application of the product require compliance with certain conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out the treatment in a specialized clinic, where secretome-based drugs are prepared according to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and ISO standards, with an accurate calculation of the therapeutic dose.
Stem Cells vs. Stem Cell Secretome
It was discovered that stem cells realize their regenerative potential thanks to the biologically active substances that they secrete. It has been established that during treatment with stem cells, the therapeutic effect continues even after the injected cells have left the body. This is due to the lasting effects of the secretome components that the cells have produced within the body.
The survival rate of cells injected into the recipient’s body during stem cell therapy is also questionable since it is difficult to predict or influence. Thus, when a certain number of viable cells are administered to a patient, the power and duration of the therapeutic effect are unpredictable. That is why there is no stem cell treatment clinic that can give a 100% guarantee of a cure for a certain disease. Efficacy depends on how the cells behave in the body of a particular patient, and how his or her body will dispose of the received cell transplant.
In contrast, injected secretome can remain active in the body for up to six months. This means that the active biological components will perform their therapeutic functions for that entire period.
Stem Cell Secretome-Based Treatment Advantages:
- There is no risk of adverse reactions even if the secretome is obtained from the stem cells of donor tissues since the transplant does not contain any cells.
- Fewer stem cells are required to produce secretome for treatment than would be needed in the case of stem cell therapy.
- There is faster and easier preparation of the transplant product for the therapy.
- A secretome-based product is easier to store and transport than cell-based products.
- The regenerative effect observed after the introduction of substances obtained from mesenchymal stem cells is similar to the effect after transplantation of the MSCs themselves.
- There is a wide range of applications, which allows more medical conditions to be treated.
- The cost of therapy based on MSC secretome is lower when compared to treatment costs with MSCs, which makes secretome treatment more affordable.
Outcomes of the Therapy with Stem Cell Secretome:
- restoration of damaged tissue
- modulation of the immune system
- neuroprotective effect
- antioxidant effect
- antifibrotic effect (blocking or preventing scarring of the tissue)
- increase of endurance, performance and resistance of the body
- healing and rejuvenation of the body at the cellular level
Stem cell secretome has a significant impact on tissue regeneration. Compared to treatment with MSCs, secretome components have longer viability after administration into the recipient’s body and do not show adverse reactions and side effects.
A secretome-based product is easier to obtain than an MSC-based one; because of this, the cost of treatment may be lower. At the same time, the substances secreted by stem cells have the same properties in the body as the cells themselves.
Because of these factors, it is favourable to use transplants based on stem cell secretome in clinical practice for the treatment and management of many medical conditions.
You can talk to our medical adviser to find out what the possible results are of the therapy for your case, and to get details of the duration and cost of the treatment.
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Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor