Some Beginnings of International Stem Cell Treatments
and How the USA Was Left Behind.
So, what is going on in stem cell therapy, and why is the Institute involved? An explosion of advances in stem cell therapies occurred in the early years of the 21st century, particularly in 2001-2005. These advances created what some refer to as “the new medicine”, a new model for treating patients. In this new model, adult stem cells are harvested from the patient and (with or without multiplication in the number of cells depending on the protocol) re-injected back into the patient. As patient advocate David Granovsky correctly observes: “Stem cell treatment is a procedure, not a drug” (repairstemcell.wordpress.com). The patient receives what is his.
The world left the USA totally behind when every other major and minor country in the world proceeded with testing Adult Stem Cells derived from the patient to be treated, as a therapeutic modality. I am deeply saddened that my home country, the USA, once the world leader in medical advances, now is not even in the game. A former banana republic like Panama has one of the most sophisticated adult stem cell treatment centers in the world, with a 10 year history of successful treatments. While in the USA, as of 2010, there is NOT ONE stem cell treatment offered (unless you want to talk about a 40 year old bone marrow transplantion procedure for leukemia patients). The reason seems to be that the medical-pharmaceutical industry in the USA has been banking on using patentable embryonic stem cells as a treatment methodology. After all, my adult stem cells are mine, and can be used for my benefit, without a pharmaceutical company. If adult stem cell treatment is a procedure and not a drug, how will the medical-pharmaceutical industry be able to control and capitalize on this “new medicine”??
You don’t need to spend billions on trying to make Embryonic Stem Cells work (which they more likely never will). You only need a physician, skilled in drawing a patient’s blood and if necessary multiplying the cells in the lab for injection back into the patient. This New Medicine not only does miracles, but is a relatively simple and cheap procedure as well!
Moreover, over the last 10 years, two other important observations (recorded in peer reviewed medical journals so numerous as to require no citation) were being consistently reported:
(1) Adult Stem Cells are multipotent, meaning an adult stem cell can become many other kinds of cells. Depending on where the adult cells are harvested from, almost every other kind of repair stem cell can be obtained.
(2) A “stem cell” may be a “state” of a cell, rather than a “kind” of a cell, meaning that many kinds of adult cells can be reprogrammed backwards or forwards to become a stem cell.
Repair Stem Cells
The term “repair stem cells” is of recent vintage, occurring only since 2008. The term refers to Adult Stem Cells found in all patients whose job it is to repair damaged tissue, defeat disease, organize new growth. This is as opposed to “embryonic stem cells” whose only job, as succinctly stated by patient advocate Don Margolis (repairstemcells.org) is to make a baby. Embryonic stem cells will never work as a treatment modality because they are proliferating cells that cause tumors when injected into adult hosts. Moreover, a little know fact that is covered up in the USA is that embryonic stem cells are always rejected by the recipient’s immune system, and consequently can only be used along with immuno-suppressive drugs!
One sees a lot of the term “repair stem cells” (search Google). The term as far as is known, was coined by Dr. Carlos Lima of Portugal, who used the term at a Stem Cell Symposium in Greece in May 2008. At that symposium, Dr. Lima reported on his protocol wherein neural stem cells are obtained from the patient’s own nose, and transplanted into a paralyzed patient’s backbone. His treatment was the first in the world permitting some paraplegics to leave their wheel chairs and walk! The term “repair stem cells” ONLY refers to adult stem cells in the patient’s own body, and NEVER refers to “embryonic stem cells”.
The History of International Stem Cell Treatment for Heart Disease
Sources: “The $100 Billion Scam” by Don Margolis;
Newsweek Article by Mary Carmichael (October 3, 2005);
“Real World Successes of Adult Stem Cell Treatment”, by Bradley Richard Hughes Jr.,(http://www.cogforlife.org/2004/12/01/real-world-successes-of-adult-stem-cell-treatment/#more-1608).
In 1998, at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Doris Taylor, Director of the Center for
Cardiovascular Repair, demonstrated that adult stem cells worked to repair damaged animal hearts.
In 2001, Donald Orlic, a molecular biologist at the National Human Genome Research Institute, showed that Adult Stem Cells obtained from bone marrow could repair cardiac tissue in mice.
And those very important seminal findings were ignored in the USA. But not so overseas.
In 2001, at the University of Dusseldorf, German physicians repeated the Taylor/Orlic procedure in patients that had suffered heart attacks. Bone marrow transplantations of the patients own stem cells repaired damaged cardiac tissue! This protocol was confirmed in Japan, which reported that patients with blocked coronary arteries had better blood flow after infusion of the patients’ bone marrow.
In 2002, after Brazilian physicians used Adult Stem Cells to successfully treat a variety of heart disease, the international landslide of stem cell treatments, not only for heart disease, but also relating to many other diseases, had begun. The world, excluding only the USA, began the great surge in trying Adult Stem Cells, in many kinds of diseases, and with amazing successes. But in my enthusiasm, I digress…
In 2003, it is widely acknowledged, that Germany grabbed the lead from Brazil, and became at that time the world leader in cardiac therapy using adult stem cell treatments.
In 2004, a cardiac surgeon from India, Dr. Amit Patel, showed that for patients receiving bypass surgery, surgery plus stem cells was better than surgery alone. He was sometime thereafter recruited to the University of Pittsburgh to teach the procedure there.
Also in 2004, Don Margolis founded the Vescell Company in Thailand, (headed by a cardiac surgeon who trained for 20 years in the USA before moving back to Thailand to head the cardiac stem cell therapy center) and Thailand began treating cardiac patients using the patients’ own stem cells.
To this day, one can find many international centers successfully treating cardiac disease using the patients’ autologous stem cells. In the USA? Not available.
Many of us Americans overseas were amazed and delighted about these and other reports of success using stem cells. For example, here’s what David Granovsky, a leading stem cell patient advocate, describes as his experience:
“In 2004 I worked for the first commercial stem cell treatment facility in the world. [ed. note: presumably in Thailand] I watched them as they treated congestive heart failure patients who were tired of being stuck on transplant lists for hearts that might never materialize. I watched these patients brought in on wheelchairs with gray complexions and oxygen canisters. I then saw them come back later on their own power with smiles on their faces and a bounce in their step. These were people who were doubling their ejection fractions (vol of blood pumped out of their hearts) and people who went from Level 3 or 4 congestive heart failure down to Level one. This is the difference between the rest of their short lives in a bed waiting for a heart transplant at Level 3 or 4 AND playing tennis, making love to their spouses, chasing their grandchildren around at Level 2.”
So moved by his experience, David became one of the world’s foremost adult stem cell advocates for patients, and maintains an excellent stem cell blog at: repairstemcell.wordpress.com
At the same time, many of us were deeply saddened not only by the total absence of US innovations in this new medicine, but also saddened by the arrogant dismissal of these amazing international successes as being “unproven”.
In 2006, physicians and scientists at TheraVitae (which was also founded by Don Margolis and apparently is the successor to Vescell in handling cultured stem cells for heart patients) published a very important paper. They reported that stem cells from a patients blood were multipotent, and that they could derive angiogenic, myocardial, and neural cell lineages. They concluded that a small quantity of a patient’s own blood contains many lineage-specific precursor cells so as to make this a potential source of autologous treatment “for a variety of diseases”. Porat,Y et al., “Isolation of an Adult Blood-Derived Progenitor Cell Population Capable of Differentiation Into Angiogenic, Myocardial, and Neural Lineages”, British Journal of Haematology, 135: 703-714 (Dec 2006)
After that and many similar published reports, during the period 2006-2010, that’s just what the world did…use autologous adult stem cells to treat “a variety of diseases”, the list of which is beyond comprehension and belief. See repairstemcells.org, and donmargolis.com, and repairstemcell.wordpress.com.
As noted above, in 2008, at a stem cell symposium in Greece, Dr. Carlos Lima of Portugal introduced the term “repair stem cells”, to refer to the properties of adult stem cells, and to further differentiate these cells from “embryonic stem cells”. The term is NEVER used to refer to embryonic stem cells, which Dr. Lima refers to as “proliferating cells” which generally proliferate into tumors. If you are a patient, search the internet for “repair stem cells”, which is the international term for these healing cells.
Sadly, in my home country, the USA, the medical practitioners are still debating and awaiting government funding for embryonic stem cell research. After all, it’s all about money, isn’t it? A pharmaceutical company cannot make any money if a patient’s physician can draw some blood, collect the repair stem cells, and transplant them back into the patient. So nothing goes forward, because if the powers that be cannot make any money off what is in essence a “medical procedure”, then nothing is permitted to be done. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has abandoned that debate (between which is better, embryonic or adult stem cells) and marched on using autologous adult stem cells – repair stem cells- to cure, or at least control and improve, the majority of our most debilitating diseases.
Adult stem cells are helping patients every day…embryonic stem cells, while seeming to hold great promise, have failed, at least to date, to demonstrate any beneficial effect for a patient.
For me, I feel more comfortable with those medical procedures that can use my own cells, rather than to be injected with foreign biologicals or synthetic cells created in a lab that also require I simultaneously take immune-suppressive drugs.
Walter P. Drake
March 7, 2012
Sources of Photos:
(1) Dr. Doris Taylor: Photo by and from an excellent article by Phil Bolsta, “Medical Miracles Brewing at the U of M”, published March 30, 2009 on his blog: bolstablog.wordpress.com.
(2) Dr. David Orlic: Photo of Dr. Orlic addressing the Turkish Society of Cardiology in 2005 as published on its website http://www.tkd.org.tr
(3) Dr. Carlos Lima: Photo from another excellent article relating to the treatment of paraplegia with neural stem cells harvested from the patient’s nose, written by Laurence Johnston and Sara Sá, adapted from Paraplegia News, March 2003, published in Visao, Portugal’s national news magazine, and excerpted for the internet at http://www.healingtherapies.info/OlfactoryTissue1.htm