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Stem Cell Therapy for Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism

Could cutting-edge stem cell therapies be the treatment you need for your thyroid condition?
Stem Cell Therapy for Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism
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It may sound like science fiction, but some day soon, scientists may be able to completely regenerate the thyroid gland. The secret? Stem cells!! Stem cell therapy is a promising field of research for treating autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. Ahead, we’ll explore the current state of stem cell therapy for thyroid conditions.

Conventional thyroid treatments

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system produces antibodies that eventually destroy the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. The treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which involves taking synthetic thyroid hormone medication to replace the hormone that the thyroid gland can’t produce.

Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising alternative treatment approach that may provide an option to help overcome the current challenges of hormone replacement therapy.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy is a more recently developed medical treatment that harnesses the power of stem cells to promote healing and tissue regeneration in the body. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can develop into various types of specialized cells in the body. These specialized cells can repair damaged tissues, making stem cell therapy a promising avenue for treating various medical conditions and diseases.

First, it’s important to note that several different types of stem cells are used in therapy.

  • Embryonic stem cells are the most powerful, and as pluripotent stem cells, they can differentiate into any cell type in the human body. These stem cells come from embryos 3 to 5 days old and are obtained from early-stage embryos that form when eggs are fertilized with sperm at an in vitro fertilization clinic. However, the use of embryonic stem cells can raise ethical concerns as they are obtained from embryos.
  • Adult stem cells can differentiate into a limited number of cell types based on where they’re harvested from. Adult stem cells are found in small numbers in various tissues throughout the body and have a more specialized role in maintaining and repairing specific tissues. These stem cells can be harvested from the patient’s body, known as an autologous stem cell transplant, eliminating ethical concerns.
  • Umbilical cord blood stem cells: These stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. They are used in stem cell transplants to treat certain blood disorders and cancers.
  • Adipose-derived stem cells: These stem cells are found in fat tissue and can differentiate into various cell types.

The stem cells most often used for thyroid treatment are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), adult stem cells that can differentiate into various types of cells. Mesenchymal cells can become bone cells (osteoblasts), cartilage cells (chondrocytes), muscle cells (myocytes), and fat cells (adipocytes). MSCs can be isolated from different sources, including bone marrow, fat tissue, and umbilical cord tissue. MSCs are among the most frequently used cell types for regenerative medicine.

Stem cell therapy involves obtaining stem cells and then culturing and manipulating them in a laboratory setting. These cells are then administered back into the body through injections or surgical procedures, depending on the specific condition being treated.

Once inside the body, the stem cells can migrate to the damaged or diseased area, promoting healing. They achieve this by differentiating into specialized kinds of cells that replace the damaged ones, secreting growth factors and proteins that stimulate tissue regeneration, and modulating the immune response to reduce inflammation.

Stem cell therapy has shown immense potential in treating various conditions, including damaged heart muscle, spinal cord injuries, vision impairments, neurodegenerative disorders, orthopedic injuries, and, of interest to thyroid patients, autoimmune thyroid diseases.

Stem cell therapy is still a relatively new field, and more research is needed to better understand its effectiveness and safety. It’s also a complex medical procedure that should only be performed by qualified professionals.

Stem cell therapy for thyroid disease

While stem cell therapy is still in the early stages of research for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, studies have suggested that stem cells may potentially reduce thyroid inflammation, promote the production of healthy thyroid cells, and modulate the immune system response. The following are some highlights of the research.

  • Recent research has found that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the potential to differentiate into functional thyroid follicular cells, regenerate human thyroid cells, and treat thyroid diseases, including autoimmune Hashimoto’s.
  • Specifically, several studies have shown that stem cell therapy with MSCs can be a potentially beneficial and safe immunotherapy strategy for treating Hashimoto’s disease.
  • Research shows that MSCs – easily harvested from human adipose tissue, umbilical cord tissue, or bone marrow – can potentially lessen the effects of autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease by modulating the immune system, promoting tissue repair, and improving thyroid function.
  • A team of researchers at Mount Sinai created highly purified and functional thyroid cells that can secrete thyroid hormone.

Risks, side effects, and considerations

While stem cell therapy for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism is a promising treatment, like any medical procedure, it comes with potential risks and side effects. Here are some of the potential risks and side effects of stem cell therapy for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism: 

  • Infection: There is a risk of infection associated with any medical procedure, including stem cell therapy. The risk of infection can be minimized by ensuring that the stem cells are obtained from a reputable source and that the stem cell procedure is performed in a sterile environment by a trained medical professional.
  • Rejection: There is a risk that the body may reject the stem cells, leading to an immune response. This risk can be minimized by using stem cells obtained from the patient’s own body (autologous stem cells).
  • Tumor formation: Theoretically, there’s a risk that stem cell therapy may lead to the formation of tumors. It’s thought that this risk is minimized by carefully screening the stem cells used in a procedure to identify any abnormalities.
  • Bleeding: There is a risk of bleeding associated with any medical procedure, including stem cell therapy. The risk of bleeding can be minimized by ensuring that a trained and qualified medical professional performs the procedure.
  • Pain: There may be some pain associated with the injection of stem cells. This pain can be managed with pain medication.

It’s also important to note that the short-term risks and side effects -- and the long-term implications – of stem cell therapy for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are still being studied. More research is needed to understand this treatment approach’s potential risks and benefits. Patients considering stem cell therapy should discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider before undergoing the procedure.

An additional consideration to keep in mind is that thyroid patients may need additional stem cell treatments in the future to maintain the benefits of the initial treatment.

Also, always work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider who has extensive training in stem cell treatments.

Finally, one issue to keep in mind is cost. Stem cell therapy is still considered experimental and may not be widely available. This treatment can be expensive – ranging from around $5,000 up to $50,000 or more – and health insurance usually does not cover the cost of the procedure.

A note from Paloma

If you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, Paloma’s thyroid experts can help you develop a comprehensive treatment plan for hypothyroidism, all from the comfort of your home.

Remember that stem cell therapy holds potential as an alternative treatment option to reduce inflammation, promote tissue regeneration, and improve thyroid function. However, further research and clinical trials are necessary to establish the safety and efficacy of stem cell therapy for these conditions.

You should also be sure to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in stem cell treatment. They can provide recommendations and treatment based on your specific medical history.

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Stem Cell Therapy for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A New Frontier. Accessed July 24, 2023.

Ye S, Zhu ZL. Stem Cell Therapy for Thyroid Diseases: Progress and Challenges. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2022 Mar 5;96:100665. doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2022.100665. PMID: 35371349; PMCID: PMC8968462.

Pluripotent Human Stem Cells Show Potential for Thyroid Regenerative Therapy.

Cade Hildreth (CEO. Cost Of Stem Cell Therapy And Why It’s So... BioInformant. Published November 21, 2018.

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Mary Shomon

Patient Advocate

Mary Shomon is an internationally-recognized writer, award-winning patient advocate, health coach, and activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books on health and wellness, including the Thyroid Diet Revolution and Living Well With Hypothyroidism. On social media, Mary empowers and informs a community of more than a quarter million patients who have thyroid and hormonal health challenges.

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