Shai Efrati, MD: Inducing Stem Cell Proliferation With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center discussed how hyperbaric oxygen therapy is being used to attempt to improve the damage from neurodegeneration.

“If we cannot take the stem cells out and inject them, let’s stimulate our own body to create them. So how do you do that? Well, the main trigger for stem cell proliferation is hypoxia—a lack of oxygen.”

Shai Efrati, MD, has been working with hyperbaric oxygen therapy for quite some time, conducting studies of the treatment’s potential in a number of neurologic disease states. One such venture recently revealed that the oxygen therapy appeared to induce cognitive enhancements in healthy aging adults via mechanisms involving regional changes in cerebral blood flow, as evaluated by perfusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The findings showed that there was a significant group-by-time interaction in global cognitive function post-HBOT compared to control (P = .0017), with the most impressive improvements in attention (net effect size = 0.745) and information processing speed (net effect size = 0.788).

Efrati, who is the director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center, and an associate professor in the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, spoke about this with NeurologyLive, particularly in the context of the mechanistic workings of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. He detailed how the treatment works to proliferate stem cells, and what brought he and colleagues to this point to developing the treatment.


Amir H, Malka DK, Gil S, et al. enhancement of healthy older adults using hyperbaric oxygen: a randomized controlled trial. Aging. 2020; 12(13):13740—13761. doi: 10.18632/aging.103571