If you do a Google search using the term “stem cell” you’ll turn up over 9 million entries (September 2010)! Many concern the definition of the term which the NIH defines (in part) as cells that “have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When one divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain as is or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Few reading this have not read or heard something concerning the controversy that surrounds the use of stem cells harvested from embryos (“embryonic stem cells”). But what about other primitive cells? That is, cells found in umbilical cords and cord blood, placentas, bone marrow, peripheral blood, fat and a host of other tissues including teeth and even menstrual blood?
Not surprisingly, very little if any opposition can be found to the use of these. Actually the number of studies on and uses for such cells has mushroomed with a great percentage of these having shown that they are safe and effective in terms of facilitating bodily repair and restoration. In addition, many have been approved for some medical conditions such as leukemia. But their use has yet to receive official approval to treat diseases like multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), cerebral palsy, and such. There are clinical studies recruiting or in-progress with respect to some of these, but it will likely be many years before the FDA approves say, cord blood derived cells for treating cerebral palsy.
People with diseases such as those mentioned above who want to be treated with such cells must currently travel to countries that allow this such as China, Mexico, Thailand and the Ukraine. As these clinics are not always above board, it can be “catch-as-catch-can” when it comes to nailing down a safe, effective treatment. There is, however, at least one alternative to this right here in America: Namely, clinics whose doctors harvest bone marrow from patients own bodies and then give this back to them by injection or intravenous (IV) drip. This particular approach is legal as it does not violate the rules set up by the FDA that govern this.
How does one find a US-based clinic that offers this sort of treatment? A simple Web search using the key phrase “autologous stem cell treatment programs” will quickly turn up many of these.
All things considered, the power of these adult cells has been at least partially realized, and by virtue of this has given us a foretaste of what lies ahead.