15 April 2010

Stem cell treatment: only for free!

How not to become a victim of stem cells
We figured out who the miracle remedy can help, and who can seriously harm.

Dmitry Gutsalo, Elena Tokarchuk, Today.uaThere are a lot of rumors about stem cells.

Some consider them a panacea for many diseases, others – a dangerous invasion of nature. Both are wrong, because stem cells are only being studied. Their use in medicine is just an experiment. We tried to figure out what the doctors expect from him. But first let's find out what stem cells are.

Stem cells are the precursors of all other human cells. Introduced into the body, they turn into almost any other cells, restoring damaged organs and tissues. Clinics and centers that use cellular technologies in the treatment of diseases today exist in all leading countries of the world. Ukraine is no exception. In some ways, we even act as pioneers. "The director of the Center for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, Professor Ilya Yemets, was the first in the world to use IC during operations for heart defects in newborns," says the Chief Oncologist of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Professor Igor Shchepotin. – If earlier during such interventions it was necessary to transfuse donor blood, which has side effects, then he suggested providing the operation with umbilical cord blood, which is known to be a source of stem cells. All operations were successful."

The prospects are great. With the help of stem cells, doctors hope to defeat about 300 diseases. But for now it's just a wish. And the current positive results still say little about anything. After all, no one knows how stem cells will behave in the body, say, in 5 years.

Where are stem cells treated in Ukraine?Today we have only 4 medical institutions where you can be treated with stem cells.

These are the A.A. Shalimov National Institute of Surgery and Transplantology (Kiev), the V.K. Gusak Institute of Emergency Reconstructive Surgery (Donetsk), the Institute of Cell Therapy (Kiev) and the P.S. Shupik National Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education (Kiev). On their basis, the Coordination Center for Organ, Tissue and Cell Transplantation conducts clinical studies aimed at studying the effectiveness of cell therapy in the treatment of severe diseases.

"All the other clinics that say they are engaged in this direction and invite patients who are ready to take part in clinical trials, do it illegally, or even call this word procedures that are not related to real cell therapy. This most often concerns the field of cosmetology, where rejuvenation is offered using SK," says Ruslan Salyutin, Chief Specialist of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on stem Cells. 

What is the effect of stem cells?

The treatment of patients with stem cells in Ukraine began 10 years ago. During this time, more than 100 people have undergone a course of cell therapy. And data have already been obtained on the positive effect of the use of SC in diseases such as atherosclerotic damage to the vessels of the heart and extremities, diabetes mellitus, pancreatic necrosis (necrosis of the pancreas) and burn injuries. In all cases, the diseases slowed down their progression.

As for the effectiveness of cell therapy in all other diseases, it is still too early to talk about it. "It is also not necessary to perceive stem cells as a panacea," R. Salyutin emphasizes. – If you start a course of cell therapy for a patient who is in a serious condition, for example, in a state of developed gangrene of the limb or diabetic coma, then about 70% of patients will not help. The earlier the stage of the disease, the more effective the result of treatment will be."

The course of treatment with stem cells lasts from 2 to 5 days (repeated courses, according to Ruslan Salyutin, were not carried out for patients). The patient can feel improvement already in the first week after the procedure: weakness decreases, appetite increases, depression disappears, potency returns in men. Within a month and a half, immunity, liver function is restored, hematopoiesis increases. "It's hard to say how long the effect will last. Maybe a year, maybe five. In many ways, it all depends on the patient. If he drinks and smokes, for example, the effect will last less than if he leads a healthy lifestyle," says Ruslan Salyutin. – Do not forget that the research is still ongoing and it is unknown how this treatment will end after, for example, 10 years."

How do I get into the experiment?

So far, stem cell treatment has only one status – clinical trials. That is, this is an experiment, so their treatment is free. It will continue for 3-5 years. And only after its completion will it be possible to say whether cell therapy has taken place as an official type of treatment. By the way, the first phase of research in Ukraine, which lasted 5 years, ended successfully: experts found no side effects and all the results were positive.

Those who suffer from diseases with which clinical studies are currently being conducted in official cell therapy centers can get into the experiment. That is, with diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities, pancreatic necrosis, burn disease, cirrhosis of the liver. To do this, you need to contact the Coordination Center of the Ministry of Health by phone 576-57-49. There, the patient will be sent to one of the bases where he will be examined. He will be checked for contraindications: neuropsychiatric disorders, oncological diseases. The study also includes a blood test for cancer markers (if there are any, this indicates the so-called increased oncological readiness, in which cell transplantation is contraindicated). In addition, it is mandatory to check for infection with cytomegalovirus. If it is detected, it is useless to inject stem cells: the virus neutralizes them. Therefore, not everyone is suitable for the experiment.

Which cells are better?

As a rule, an intravenous drip is used for transplantation or ordinary subcutaneous injections are given (for example, in a leg affected by atherosclerosis). This is how stem cells selected individually for this patient enter (are transplanted) into the body of patients.

It should be noted that the strongest regenerating potential is possessed by stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Moreover, according to Ruslan Salyutin, there is no difference in the effectiveness of cells from one's own and someone else's umbilical cord blood. Then a natural question arises: "Why in many maternity hospitals parents are offered to collect it during childbirth and preserve it in an umbilical cord blood bank." It seems that the only advantage of this procedure is that in case of trouble, the "depositor" will immediately receive native, perfectly compatible blood. Although, according to Ruslan Salyutin, there is no shortage of stem cells and there is no need to queue up for them.

In adults, stem cells are preserved too – in adipose tissue. (We leave this very incomplete statement on the conscience of the authors – VM.) However, they are less active, which means that they are inferior in effectiveness to stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Again, there is no difference – whether you will be injected with stem cells from your own or someone else's adipose tissue. The main thing is to be compatible.

How dangerous is cell therapy

In February, Russian actor Stanislav Sadalsky stated in his blog that the deaths of Anna Samokhina, Oleg Yankovsky and Alexander Abdulov (all died of cancer) were the result of anti–aging procedures using stem cells. Could there be a connection between them and cancer, we asked Professor Igor Shchepotin, Chief oncologist of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.

"When they talk about stem cells now, two aspects should be distinguished," the specialist emphasizes. – The first is their use in cosmetology for the purpose of rejuvenation (in Moscow, one procedure costs $ 15 thousand, in our country, according to unofficial data, $5-7 thousand – Auth.). After their introduction into the body, there is a temporary surge of strength, but those who do this often do not take into account whether the injected cells are compatible with the body of the person to whom they are injected. Theoretically, it cannot be excluded that this may give rise to cancer. If we are talking about real cell therapy, then this is a scientific progressive direction."

"Stem cells are able to provoke the development of cancer, but not all," confirms the words of a colleague Ruslan Salyutin. – The thing is that there are stem cells from different sources – the so-called early embryos, umbilical cord blood and adult tissues. So, early embryonic cells can turn into cancer cells, so we don't use them. We do not provide rejuvenation services."

ExperimentSo, our experts confirm that the use of stem cells for the purpose of rejuvenation can provoke cancer.

We decided to check whether the capital's aesthetic medicine clinics provide such a service. Just in case, beauty salons were also included (suddenly a cosmetologist secretly conducts such a procedure there). But we did not find such an underground worker in any of the 15 beauty salons we called.

But calling aesthetic medicine clinics and medical centers (we got through to 30) showed more interesting results. Having already lost hope of getting an affirmative answer, after the 20th call I suddenly heard: "We use stem cells. We take blood, then we run it through a centrifuge. The part that remains after such a run is with stem cells. So we pierce it. It stimulates the work of your own cells, due to which it has a rejuvenating effect." And only then "casually" clarified that this procedure is called "autohemotherapy".

"This procedure has nothing to do with cell therapy," says Ruslan Salyutin. – They just take blood from a vein, add vitamins, supplements, etc., and then this "cocktail" is injected into the body. This is a long-known and widely used procedure. And the mention of stem cells is in this case a publicity stunt."

Without stopping there, I call further. Having received a bunch of "no", suddenly I hear: "Girl, leave your phone." Half an hour later, the clinic doctor calls me back. I tell him that I want to rejuvenate the decollete area with the help of stem cells. "I do not recommend doing this, a lift will help you," my interlocutor advises. – If stem cells are injected locally for the purpose of rejuvenation, then an allergy may occur and the effect will be the same as Yushchenko's (there is a version that the president was not poisoned with dioxin, but he became a victim of rejuvenation, but it is not officially confirmed – Auth.). But if you came to us with such a problem as periodontal disease, I would recommend cell therapy and would refer you to the representative office of the Cryobionics Institute." I check with Ruslan Salyutin what kind of "representation" it is. "I have already told you that in Ukraine only 4 medical institutions can use stem cells in treatment. There is no Cryobionics Institute among them," the expert said.

So, to summarize: during the call, we did not find a clinic that conducts cell therapy for the purpose of rejuvenation. But it is not a fact that individual doctors do not do this. It is clear that their contacts are passed from hand to hand. And again: the experts of the Ministry of Health do not recommend resorting to their services.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru15.04.2010

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