Before we start talking about regenerative medicine and cellular therapy, we should establish a working definition for stem cells. From dictionary.reference.com we get the following:
“An unspecialized cell found in fetuses, embryos, and some adult body tissues that has the potential to develop into specialized cells or divide into other stem cells. Stem cells from fetuses or embryos can develop into any type of differentiated cells, while those found in mature tissues develop only into specific cells. Stem cells can potentially be used to replace tissue damaged or destroyed by disease or injury, but the use of embryonic stem cells for this purpose is controversial. Also called progenitor cell.”
As you can see, a stem cell could be thought of as the master cell.
The Cutting Edge of Medical Guests
Jason welcomes Dr. Steven Victor to episode #33 of The Longevity Show. Victor is a practitioner of regenerative medicine through the use of stem cells. This technique has only been around for 12 years, making it a relatively recent option. And while it doesn’t cure people it can alleviate intense symptoms of pain and dysfunction. The treatment includes an intravenous approach and targeted injections for inflamed areas. The science behind the procedure is taken directly from naturally occurring body processes. While no one can know what the future holds, especially in these early stages of regenerative medicines’ development, the current track record is promising.
Dr. Victor’s Personal Experience with Cellular Therapy
When Doctor Victor began to experience carpal tunnel pain in both hands, he elected to follow the traditional route of hand surgery. He chose to have the left hand operated on first, a procedure which seemed to go well until, post surgery, he began to develop scar tissue, pain, and functional limitations.
He decided to give stem cell therapy a shot, using fat cells harvested from his belly. The results were extraordinary. He received an intravenous injection for generalized help with inflammation and then specific injections into both wrists. Within six months the left hand was functioning perfectly, and without pain. The carpal tunnel symptoms in the right hand disappeared. Surgery was no longer necessary.
Better than Cortisone
At first glance, cortisone (commonly used for decades as an anti-inflammatory) seems like a pretty good option to help relieve chronic pain. The problem is that the list of side effects is a mile long, and can get more severe with long term use. From musculoskeletal breakdown to psychotic episodes, heavy duty cortisone use can leave you with more problems than when you started.
Cellular therapy using stem cells seems to have the healing properties of a supercharged dose of cortisone but without the side effects. You can see why the medical community might be interested. Dr. Victor claims that cellular therapy is a thousand times stronger than cortisone, and left him with more energy and less inflammation than he could have imagined.
This Treatment is Not Cheap
Cutting edge biologic treatments like cellular therapy are cheap as aspirins, right? Actually, no. Victor says a single treatment here in the United States (his clinic is in New York) can run from $15,000 to $25,000. And in a strange twist on medical tourism, it’s even more expensive overseas.
Insurance does not cover cellular therapy but it does seem that the people running Workers’ Comp programs are starting to turn a more generous eye to the process. Victor described an incident where an injured worker would have required $200,000 to pay for traditional treatments and missed work, while the cellular therapy approach cost $20,000. In this instance, the Workers’ Comp program decided to go with Victor’s approach and saved the state $180,000.
If cases like this become commonplace, it might not be long before insurance companies start inquiring as to what all the fuss is about, and can it save them money too?
A Layman’s Guide to the Cellular Therapy Approach
The obvious question is how does the process work?
We’ve already touched on the stem cell role as the master cell that directs the body in emergency repairs and healing when injured. Let’s say you break a leg. The stem cells arrive on the scene after platelets have stopped the bleeding. They work to stop inflammation, reduce the blood flow further and begin differentiating among the different kinds of cells that will be needed to effect a repair of bone, muscle, tendon, vessels, etc.
Victor compares inflammation to the popular 1980s video game Pac Man, where the little yellow guy devoured everything in his path. Stem cells are the good guys trying to stop him. The process of injecting stem cells intravenously and into the specific injury spot creates an overwhelming army which is able to subdue the “Pac Man.”
Age Management: Quantity versus Quality
Jason brings up a question of extreme interest to us all. Does cellular therapy mean we can live forever? Victor had previously mentioned 150 as a possible age threshold that humans might be able to reach. In fact, he believes there is someone alive today who will likely live that long.
But is that it? Is it the final barrier for human longevity? Dr. Victor thinks it unlikely that a person will be able to live past that age whilst retaining a high quality of life. Like a car, even if you take care of it, there is a finite lifespan to consider and break down will occur eventually. Cognitive ability, hearing, and sight might not make it to the century and a half mark.
In closing, Victor said he expects to have cellular therapy clinics in operation in New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and the Middle East within the next few years. One thing to keep in mind is that we are at the very beginning of exploring healing at the cellular level. Where we end up is anyone’s guess. Hold on, folks. This could be an exciting ride. (Image: Flickr | lwpkommunikacio)
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The Longevity Show Team