There has been much in the news lately, on stem cell therapy. Stem cells are nothing new; they have been around ever since life forms emerged on this planet. They are the undifferentiated cells of the body that have the capability to differentiate into any specialized cell in the body, as indeed happens while an embryo develops. What is new is the technology to harvest stem cells and to activate them, which has of course been patented and stands to make a few people extremely wealthy. This technology shows great promise for pushing back the boundaries of healing.
What is first noticeable about stem cell therapy is its massive price! Secondly, it is a very specialized technique, often involving the risk of two general anaesthetics for the patient and it is invasive and potentially very painful. These points are understandable in view of the infancy of the techniques. There may be a point at which questions must be asked whether it is right for every eligible patient.
However . . . .
Ever since the 1980s, I have believed that LASER Therapy and Acupuncture techniques (and possibly Homeopathy) have the ability to stimulate stem cell activity (these treatments are without risk and without pain). There has been no other plausible theory to explain to me the incredible healing of wounds, ulcers and injuries that appears to follow on such treatments. Tendon and ligament injuries (e.g. suspensory and cruciate injury) often heal faster and better than expected, coincidentally with such treatments. We have also seen incredible recoveries from spinal injuries and paralysis that would be very difficult to explain without bringing in the healing power and regenerative capability of stem cells.
A body of evidence has emerged during the last decade that appears to support this belief. In fact, I believe that the patented commercial stem cell ‘activation' methods include LASER light stimulation. I have appended a few of the available references for interest.
I hope but am not confident that the wonderful natural phenomenon of stem cells will not be ‘owned', manipulated and exploited by commercial interest.
- Moldenhauer S, Burgauner M, Hellweg R, et al. Mobilization of CD133(+)CD34(-) cells in healthy individuals following whole-body acupuncture for spinal cord injuries. J Neurosci Res. 2009 Dec 22 [Epub ahead of print].
- Yan Q, Ruan JW, Ding Y, et al. Electro-acupuncture promotes differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells, regeneration of nerve fibers and partial recovery after spinal cord injury. Exp Toxicol Pathol. [Epub ahead of print].
- Sun Z, Li X, Su Z, et al. Electroacupuncture-enhanced differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells in to neuronal cells. J Sports Rehabil. 2009;18(3):398-406.
- In Vitro Effects of Low-Level Laser Irradiation for Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Proliferation, Growth Factors Secretion and Myogenic Differentiation – Jian-feng Hou, MD – Hao Zhang, MD, PhD – Xin Yuan, MD – Jun Li, BS – Ying-jie Wei, PhD and Sheng-shou Hu, MD
- Low power laser radiation at 685 nm stimulates stem-cell proliferation rate in Dugesia tigrina during regeneration – Sandra Cristina de Souza, Egberto Munin, Leandro Procópio Alves, Miguel Angel Castillo Salgado, Marcos Tadeu Tavares Pacheco (N.B.: The AVMC cannot support animal experiments of this type but the results are now in the public domain.)