Still waiting for stem cell treatments to come to a doctor's office near you?
It seems like a decade or two since we were introduced to stem cell research and treatments, and told that, through them, we might beat the degradation of a dreaded disease, recover from an injury or a degenerated joint, and that all these could be things of the past.
All we'd need to do was get an injection of our own stem cells and like magic we'd be up and running again almost like new. Let the body heal itself. Sounds like a dream.
Well in some circles this is more than a dream: It’s happening.
Recently I spoke with Mark Berman, a doctor in Beverly Hills, about his Cell Surgical Network: A more than decade-old business that's busy advancing medical research by using a network of doctor's following specific stem cell protocols. He networks with over 100 doctors in the U.S. and abroad who are enthusiastic about the potential of stem cells and want to see stem cell treatments become a normal part of health care.
To have a better idea of the protocol, I visited the office of long-time Redding physician Robert Ghelfi, who is in Berman's network. Ghelfi is the medical director of the Northern California Stem Cell Treatment Center that affiliates with several Redding physicians.
He explained the stem cell extraction method: Take a little fat from the patient and spin it to separate the stem cells. Once separated, Ghelfi prepares the patient’s own stem cells for injection into the injured, damaged or degenerating site on the patient's body. It seems like a surprisingly simple and straightforward procedure. It typically takes one injection, Ghelfi said, and the visit lasts about an hour.
Stem cells are attracted to injured, damaged or ill-performing tissue, Berman and Ghelfi explained. Once injected into the region, they begin to heal and regenerate tissue.
How effective is it?
It depends on the area of the body and the problem.
Both Berman and Ghelfi mentioned the 83% success rate they've had with injecting over 6,000 degenerated knees. This treatment is popular with people who opted not to have a knee replacement surgery.
A complication with younger people getting knee replacements is the need for another replacement years later, since the first can wear out. With stem cell therapy, this problem can be avoided, Ghelfi said.
Research shows success with other conditions as well.
For his part, Ghelfi is impressed by the research, and his own clinical experience, using stem cells for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Under the heading of COPD falls chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Since chronic bronchitis usually progresses to emphysema, Ghelfi’s goal is to try to stabilize pulmonary function.
"This is a huge improvement for COPD since the rate of decline annually is four percent," he said. And since pulmonary function is easily measurable, it works nicely for research data.
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Success has been reported by injecting stem cells into disc protrusions, thumbs, fingers, wrists, elbows, ankles, hips, necks, backs, tendons and for treating non-healing wounds, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy, asthma, multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
As research continues to be compiled by participating doctors, the body of work into stem cell applications increases.
Berman and Ghelfi are both surgeons who've become interested in stem cell therapies because of the results they’ve achieved, their ease of use and lack of side effects.
Stem cell research is still in its relative infancy, and I have no doubt that these pioneers will be moving the needle in healthcare not only in the United States, but worldwide.
Note: This stem cell procedure is not covered by insurance and the cost is between $5,000 and $7,000 for treatment, Ghelfi said. If you think you have a health situation that might benefit from stem cell treatment, he offers a free consultation.
Research and treatments have shown promise. More options are always good.
Trudi Pratt has a chiropractic and clinical nutrition practice in Redding. Reach her at http://www.drtrudipratt.com/ or at 244-7873.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Stem cell treatment works for many, but insurance doesn't cover it