One of the more promising treatments for MS (among a slew of other conditions) is the use of adult stem cells. Unfortunately, here in the US, the media and various groups are obsessed with embryonic stem cells. Those have a lot of promise as a therapeutic method, but they are really controversial. I’m really uncomfortable with them, and I think I would decline to be treated with them. In addition to the controversy, there is the little problem of how to use them. In theory, they have a lot of promise because they could become darn near any type of cell that is needed. The problem is that they tend to create tumors. It makes sense since those cells are all about growing…
So while everyone talks about embryonic stem cells, there really aren’t any treatments available using them. While the US was arguing abut those, the rest of the world went on to researching adult stem cells. These are cells that are taken from the patient’s own body. As such, there is no controversy in using them. The cells have a variety of different sources including fat cells, bone marrow, blood, skin, and even menstrual blood! The stuff is taken out of the patient, the stem cells are separated from the host tissues, they are made to grow into more and more cells, and then they are injected back into the patient wherever they need them.
This technique is successfully being used all over the world to treat the symptoms of many different afflictions like MS, cerebral palsy, congestive heart failure, broken bones, and many more. In most cases the stem cell treatments aren’t “cures” but they do alleviate many symptoms and help people regain function. In addition, since it is the patients’ own cells being used, there are no side effects to speak of.
So why is it that people can go to Israel, China, Costa Rica, The Philippines, Argentina, and many other places to get these treatments but we can’t get them here? Many Americans assume that all of those countries have inferior medical systems and are unable to do quality medicine. That just isn’t true. The way many people think, they assume that all of those people live in mud huts and have never read a book. They have hospitals and many of those countries have very successful medical tourism industries. The reason they are successful is because they are able to offer good treatment at much lower prices in a timely fashion. Their reputations depend on good service.
No, the reason we don’t have those treatments available isn’t because of the backwardness of those other countries, it is because of the weird incentives the government has set up for these treatments. You see, the FDA has declared that adult stem cells are “drugs” and therefore are subject to all of the regulations that go along with that title. Put another way, the FDA believes that they have jurisdiction over how you can use your own cells on your own body.
It costs fortunes to get a drug approved at the FDA. Here’s the kicker, the drug companies do not have any incentive to research how people can use their own cells, so they don’t do any. Clinics, hospitals, and doctors stand to gain tremendously if these procedures become normal here. The trouble is that any given clinic would be unable to recoup the money needed to jump through all of the hoops at the FDA because once it is approved, anyone would be able to do it.
Some people would say that the government should foot the bill for this research in order to solve the problem. It would be much easier, much less expensive, and much faster if the FDA would simply reclassify the use of adult stem cells as a procedure instead of a drug.
If you’d like to see what is going on with adult stem cells these days, check out RSCI. He has a lot of information about adult stem cell use and lots of links to different types of conditions that are currently being treated with them. Adult Stem Cell Therapy is also a good place to go to talk with people that have had the procedure done. Adult stem cells are the future, and in other countries, the future is now. I hope beyond hope that this will happen in this country soon, and that the prices will follow a Lasik-type trajectory.