A scientific breakthrough that enables researchers to create adult stem cells much faster and easier will radically transform the way medicine is practiced, predicts Dr. Marc Darrow, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine.
“It will be the standard of care,” said Darrow, who teaches regenerative techniques utilizing platelets and adult stem cells to medical residents at UCLA, and who has been using the same techniques to treat patients with joint, tendon, ligament and muscle injuries in his own LA clinic.
Darrow explained that in the past, creating stem cell lines was a very tedious procedure which required “using a pipette to take nuclear material from one cell to put into another.”
But an article published January 29th in the peer-reviewed journal Nature describes a new technique for creating undifferentiated adult stem cells by immersing blood cells in an acid bath for half an hour.
Biologist Haruko Obokata, a stem cell researcher from Japan’s RIKEN Center of Developmental Biology, then injected the acid-stressed, florescently-tagged blood cells into a mouse embryo, where they created entire organs – including a beating heart.
‘It’s amazing. I would have never thought external stress could have this effect,” said study co-author Yoshiki Sasai. (See STAP cells.pdf)
“The generation of these cells is essentially Mother Nature’s way of responding to injury,” added co-author Charles Vacanti, director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham Women’s Hospital.
“Our bodies make stem cells all day long and that’s probably what’s keeping us alive, by regenerating tissue. The whole field of medicine is moving into regenerative medicine,” Darrow told CNSNews.com.
And despite the fact that most insurance does not cover stem cell therapy, he predicted: “This will become the new medicine sometime soon.”
“I mean right now, surgery is still the king, but I see terrible results from surgery. I see patients every single day who have surgeries that have failed. In fact, there are [insurance company] diagnoses such as ‘Failed Back Syndrome.’ What does that tell us? It tells us there’s enough of those surgeries that don’t work that I wouldn’t want to have one.”
In contrast, Darrow said, stem cell therapy is “the easiest, simplest and cheapest form of medicine that I know of to regenerate tissue, get rid of pain and return function.” And with the newly discovered procedure, which he warned is still in the research phase, “it’ll be very quick and very easy to repair body parts.”
“This is the crest of a wave that’s going to become a tsunami,” he predicted. “I’ve been pushing for this stuff for 16 years… and there’s guys like me out there that teach at universities and the younger docs are going for it. It’s going to be the tsunami of the new form of medicine. There’s no way to stop it.”
Another benefit is that the new technique utilizes only adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells, Darrow added. “That’s the good news,” he told CNSNews.com. “We don’t have to deal with embryos, which has a terrible political and moral controversy surrounding it.”
In addition to ethical problems, “embryonic cells can cause tumors,” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Cell-based therapies show great promise for repairing, replacing, restoring, or regenerating damaged cells, tissues and organs,” an overview published by the FDA on Dec. 11, 2013 noted. Since “embryonic cells can cause tumors… these more mature cells may be better suited to replace specific types of damaged cells or lost cells or for repairing damaged tissue.”
Darrow noted that the recent breakthrough in procducing adult stem cells will provide new insight into how the body repairs itself, calling them “the crème de la crème of healing.”
Although adult stem cell therapy will never replace surgery for some problems, he predicts it will greatly reduce the number of back surgeries and joint replacements now being done. “People who would normally be having surgery who come to me don’t have to have surgery,” he said.
“Look, I love surgeons. They’re brilliant. This is not a putdown on surgeons. It’s just that they’re very, very busy. When I was doing orthopedic surgery as a medical student and as an intern, there were days when we’d see 60 patients in the clinic. How much time does the doctor have to examine the patient? It’s mostly slap an X-ray up on the wall or an MRI and then deciding what to do from that. It’s not the best medicine.” Darrow told CNSNews.com.
“And again, that’s not a hit on surgeons, because we definitely need surgeons. There’s a lot of work for surgeons to do. It’s just that many of these, what I’ll call elective surgeries, in my mind – and that’s just my opinion – should not be done. We should be using regenerative medicine with platelets and/or stem cells to regenerate the tissue.
“And I hear from patients every day who say their doctor says it can’t work. You can’t regrow tissue. Well, that’s nonsense. I’ve been watching this for 16 years. It works great.”
That’s why, he says, it won’t be long before using adult stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue becomes standard medical care. “Who wants to do surgery when it’s going to hurt someone? Who wants to get surgery when it can hurt [you]? This is the way. This is the Holy Grail. It’s a no-brainer.”