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Is it safe to use MSC from a donor?

Medical researchers agree that, when properly prepared, it is safe to use MSC therapy products that are “off-the-shelf”, from completely unrelated, unmatched donors.

The mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) that are extracted from cord tissue do not require an HLA match between donor and patient like the stem cells in cord blood. Not only will MSC not trigger Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD), but MSC are known to calm the immune system and physicians often give MSC to patients suffering from GvHD to help them recover.

During the past decade, over a thousand clinical trials have given a variety of MSC from different sources to over 55 thousand patients. The rate of complications from these treatments has been very low and the complications were mostly mild.  

Nonetheless, parents and patients should be cautious when shopping for MSC therapies from clinics because not all companies that manufacture MSC therapies follow the same standards. In the United States, the FDA has issued “warning letters” to a number of clinics that supposedly give injections of MSC from birth tissues. Oftentimes their product does not actually contain live stem cells, or even worse they may be contaminated with bacteria. Buyers should beware to check the credentials and quality control practices of any clinic and their suppliers before purchasing MSC therapy.

References: MSC Trials 2011-2019
Ankrum JA, Ong JF, and Karp  JM. Nature Biotechnology 2014; 32:252–260. Mesenchymal stem cells: immune evasive, not immune privileged
FDA: For Consumers - FDA Warns About Stem Cell Therapies