- Location: Dallas, Texas
- Attendee: Ferdinando Pisani
The Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine (FAIM) attended a conference-meeting in Dallas to discuss the potentialities of Autologous Stem Cell Therapy (ASCT) which uses the patient's own stem cells. The meeting was organized by Richard Humphries who cured himself from advanced and debilitating Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
This meeting was an opportunity to gather together people interested in ASCT with experts in the field. About 70 people attended the meeting, many of them prospective patients with their families. Richard Humphries benefited from ASCT in the clinical facilities created by Dr. Neil Riordan's in San Juan, Costa Rica.
Richard Humphries started the meeting like a showman holding a walking cane in his hand. He said that before ASCT this was the fundamental crutch in his life. After showing it off he snapped it in two with his thigh. Then he took out his new and inseparable stick: a golfing club that he swung elegantly as the public clapped.
The first presentation was given by Dr. Roger Nocera who is a patron of the homonymous Anti-aging Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. Dr. Nocera is a clinician who sends his clients to be treated in Costa Rica. His lively lecture was a general and basic overview of stem cells. In layman's terms, he explained the advantages of using adult stem cells (ASCs) in contrast to embryonic stem cells. Although the explanation might have seemed satisfactory, it did leave many questions unanswered to the scientific apt. He said that embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are too aggressive and most probably teratogenic. They are extremely mitotic because they must divide from a single cell to a 6-pound baby in a short time. Their pluri-potentiality makes them pre-cursors to all cells; only after a series of divisions do they actually become ASCs. ESCs would still be needed to mature into ASCs before they can safely be used in treatments. Big Pharma is interested in ESCs because the process of maturing these into ASCs is very complicated and can eventually be made into a proprietary patents. Why then, he challenged the public, not just use ASCs? They are plentiful and many times part of biological waste (umbilical cords, menstrual blood, fats from aesthetic liposuction treatments).
Dr. Nocera declared that ESCs are the Holy Grail of medicine. He gave some anecdotes and examples that were fascinating and challenging to medical dogma. One of these was that mothers have symbiotic cells that actually derive from their children. In other words, a developing fetus will donate cells to the mother. These stem cells (albeit embryonic!) will colonize in the mother and help regenerate her. This seems a preposterous idea but can easily be tested by using dyes that specifically identify chromosome-x. Biopsies of tissue from women who bore a male child will show up with dye-stained cells everywhere. If these cells have an x-chromosome they must have come from the male fetus. Dr. Nocera claims that this "endogenous" stem cell therapy is the reason women live longer than men. Women with multiple pregnancies experience an even greater benefit than women with single pregnancies. The amazing revelation here is that ASCs do not produce an immune reaction (i.e. immune rejection or host vs. graft disease).
Our own (autologous) ASCs are constantly in circulation searching to fix damaged tissue. They eventually home-in to where they are needed thanks to sophisticated communications mechanisms. For example, blood vessels "call for help" through the production of cytokines (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor). These migrating ASC are so important to health that they can be used as diagnostic markers. Therefore, if the blood borne quantity of ASCs were to lower under a certain threshold, Dr. Nocera says he can mathematically predict if the patient is going to suffer a myocardial infarction.
Dr. Nocera, being a Radiologist, cared to explain that the incredible regenerative power of the liver is derived from the work of stem cells. Its vascularization feeds it with massive amounts of blood loaded with ASCs.
Dr. Nocera proposed that we need a new Manhattan Project to develop stem cell technology. He made an ill-matched metaphor that we are actually in the same situation that science was before building the bomb: we understand the science but we need to figure out how to make it work. The Manhattan project conscripted thousands of scientists and pooled them together in a race against time. Dr. Nocera finished his lecture with a quote from Voltaire: "the art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease".
Dr. Neil Riordan filled his lecture with jokes and compassionate remarks. He gave examples of treatments of MS, Heart Failure, Spinal Cord Injury and Autism. He burst into tears when he told the story of the son of his best friend whose life was dramatically improved with ASCT. He gave an overview of the different sources of ASCs which included – adipose tissue, menstrual blood and bone marrow. The technology and novel applications around ASCT are driving a series of booming high-tech ventures.
Dr. Riordan admitted that the greatest breakthroughs in ASCT come from Veterinary Medicine and he gave much credit to Dr. Robert Harman (Vet-Stem). He sees a future when people will be treated with the same ease as it is now done with animals. Currently, veterinarians can FedEx extracted cells from their animal patients to Dr. Harman who processes them. He then returns them to the veterinarian client who injects them back into their animals.Dr. Riordan finished by giving some more examples of his remarkable successes but made a disclaimer that he could not yet guarantee any results. This is a science that is still in its infancy and many of their cases have been fundamental learning steps for improving the therapy for successive clients. For example, he had recently discovered that for ASCT to be successful, there is a need to surpass a minimum threshold in the number of implanted cells. Less that 50 million cells did not give a satisfactory response so that dosage must be increased to have efficacy.