Until very recently, I understood that stem cell therapy was still a far off dream. I assumed it held the potential to cure diseases that we thought incurable, but needed more research and time before it was safe for human use.
Stem Cell Therapy has been held back
Those assumptions largely held from headlines 19 years ago in August 2001, when U.S. President George W. Bush controversially created an ethics council to oversee embryonic stem cell research. Headlines shouted that stem cell therapy would be set back decades for religious reasons, and considering it’s almost 20 years later, maybe they were right.
In the west, treatments derived from stem cell treatment are still heavily regulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still warns that most treatments are illegal and potentially harmful. Their site states:
“The only stem cell-based products that are FDA-approved for use in the United States consist of blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic progenitor cells) derived from cord blood.
“These products are approved for limited use in patients with disorders that affect the body system that is involved in the production of blood (called the “hematopoietic” system).”
Meanwhile, in the U.K., more than 70 private providers offer some type of stem cell treatment, usually for painful joints, but there’s some suggesting it may be used to treat autism and other ailments. But medical experts are still cautioning against dangers of these treatments, although only 1 complication has been seen in over 1,700 recorded cases.
So many are already benefiting from stem cell treatments
For those that can access stem cell treatment, the benefits are already clear. The rich and powerful, those wealthy enough to travel and afford therapy in the countries that allow it, are seeing fast results in their overall well-being. Don’t take it from me, Madonna and Mike Tyson are already proving this to be true.
Madonna, 61 years old, recently made headlines for undergoing stem cell treatment for a busted knee. Having injured the leg after a bad fall on her recent concert tour, the pop superstar has endured months of pain, but can finally get the treatment she needs thanks to the current COVID-19 Pandemic (which she also tested positive for, what bad luck!).
If Madonna’s treatment is anything like what other cartilage treatments are like, adult stem cells would have been extracted from her bone marrow, and then injected into the knee to create new cartilage. Studies show that this process of rejuvenating cartilage through stem cells puts the knee in better shape for at least the next five years following the injection.
Mike Tyson, now teasing that he’s ready to get back in the ring, has also admitted to having stem cell treatment. In his case, his white blood cells were spun up and reinjected into his body. While he admits it made him feel weird, considering he feels like he can go for a third fight with Evander Holyfield now, it must have done something right.
There are just two small examples of what stem cell treatment can do. The Novus Center, in Studio City, California, also promotes stem cell-related treatment for chronic pain, sexual performance issues and the effects of aging. There’s also research currently being conducted on how stem cells could combat COVID-19, specifically by applying them to strengthen lungs and boost the immune system.
Meanwhile in Thailand, regeneration centers are using stem cell treatments to treat several kinds of cancer, sporting injuries, organ disease and neurological disorders. While western experts caution that these types of treatments might be like snake oil, at least one Parkinson’s patient is showing improvement in their symptoms two years after treatment.
Using stem cells for a longer, better life
Stem cell treatment might be a limited option for the moment, reserved for those who need it most in western countries, and for those who can afford to access a broader range of treatments abroad. However as the benefits become clear, and the technology better understood, it’s bound to reach a point where it becomes a routine part of our personal care.
Livers fatigued from years of drinking could be rejuvenated after a simple treatment. Those living in polluted cities might benefit with a treatment to their lungs. And grandparents looking to play with their children can overcome arthritis and go for a run.
Maybe it’ll take another 20 years to get to that point, and maybe it’ll only be the pop and sports superstars of our day that can benefit from these ideas now. But it’s nice to think that this technology exists, and when we can travel again, just a short flight to Thailand or Studio City to reap some of the benefits.