Stem cells: Hype or hope?

February 27, 2012

Healing, Health

One common misconception is that stem cells only come from fetuses or leftovers from in vitro fertilization.

by Dr. Hayle Aldren — 

From pundits to politicians, everyone seems to be an instant expert on stem cells these days. Stem cells, the body’s renewable resource for making new cells, are touted as quick fixes for everything from cancer to diabetes, and even as a cure for an impending shortage of doctors. But how much of it is science, and how much is science fiction?

Cell therapy, which uses extracts from young animal cells, has been a forgotten stepchild of medicine since its development in 1931 by Dr. Paul Niehans — even though international medical organizations continue to use it today. Therapeutic use of young plant cells was introduced in the 1950s by French homeopaths. Attempts to transplant immature human cells to patients also began in the 1950s, but cell grafting from unrelated donors’ gemmotherapy did not succeed until 1973, well after organ transplants had become routine.

The first patent on human embryonic stem cells in 1998 set off a global gold rush and forced rival researchers to switch to other kinds of stem cells to avoid lawsuits. Ironically, as a result of dueling lawyers and later regulations issued by the Bush administration, many disadvantages of embryonic stem cells were overcome when scientists instead switched to umbilical cord and adult stem cells (which are now widely used in veterinary medicine).

One common misconception is that stem cells only come from fetuses or leftovers from in vitro fertilization. However, stem cells can be isolated, not only from umbilical cord blood and cord tissue, but also from adult blood, bone marrow and even fatty midriffs. While research on the best ways to use these stem cells is far from complete, new facilities offering stem cell treatments are popping up every day.

If you are considering learning about stem cells and how they apply to you, it is wise to find a reputable clinic or consultant. Below are questions to ask before determining if you are comfortable with the current science behind the hype and the hope.

Questions to ask a reputable clinic or consultant:

  1. Am I a good candidate?
  2. What kind of cells would be used and why?
  3. How can I boost my odds of success?
  4. Where should I go?
  5. How much is reasonable to pay?

 

Hayle Aldren, M.D.(H), is a consultant in anti-aging medicine, nutrition, integrative cancer therapy, weight control and stem cell applications. He can be reached through Advanced Therapeutics at 480-991-1769.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2010.

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