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Success Stories

Stem cell therapy has recently been under scrutiny as an immoral and unscientific kind of therapy. The proponents of this protestation say that tampering with the body's immune system is "playing God," or at the very least, very hazardous. However, those in favor of stem cell research claim that it is the most risk-free, most successful way to protect lives from terminal diseases such as cancer. Most of the people who agree to it have direct experience with stem cell therapy. Here are some of the cord blood stem cell transplant success stories from people who have seen it work first-hand.


Texas Man Says Stem Cell Treatment Saved His Life

Texas man reports improvements after autologous stem cell treatment in Thailand for heart failure; more than 200 scientific trials underway in U.S. for stem cell treatments for heart disease.

November 13, 2009 – Ginger Allen of CBS 11/TXA 21 television stations interviews a man who received a treatment using his own stem cells three years ago in Bangkok. After three heart attacks and bypass surgery that nearly killed him, 85-year-old Joe Woofolk discusses his improvements after receiving this "last resort" treatment for his heart failure.

Doctors in Thailand removed adult stem cells from Joe's bone marrow and immediately sent them to a lab in Israel. There, the cells were grown for a week then flown back to Thailand where they were injected directly into Joe's failing heart. Mr. Woofolk reports that he's living proof stem cell therapy works, saying, "My blood pressure is normal, stress test is fine, I just turned 65 and I can play 36 holes of golf."

Dr. Jay Schneider, a cardiologist at UT Southwestern in Dallas who is studying stem cell therapy for heart disease, commented. "For patients with advanced heart failure there are really no options. It's thought that those cells can be injected into the heart and in that environment they might rebuild heart muscle," he said. Dr. Schneider's team recently received millions of dollars to study whether stem cells can help heal damaged heart muscle.

Although Joe's procedure was considered controversial just three years ago, there are close to 200 scientific trials going on right now around the country focusing on stem cell therapy for heart patients.

Adult Stem Cells Help Ease Arthritis

Dr. Max Gomez of WCBS TV reports on a clinic near Denver, Colorado that is using adult stem cells to treat osteo-arthritis of the knee, hip, ankle, and even back pain. Dr. Christopher Centeno and two of his patients discuss the process and their experience.

One patient, 52-year-old Robert Wilson, was facing knee replacements in his near future until discovering the new stem cell treatment which uses his own adult stem cells harvested from bone marrow in his hip. After the stem cells are extracted, they're brought to the lab where they're grown in special tissue cultures to multiply their numbers. Wilson now receives a series of injections that deposit his stem cells in the arthritic areas, and because they're his own stem cells, there's no risk of rejection or contracting infectious diseases.

Dr. Centeno says that the stem cells are used to form new cartilage or even repair torn ligaments. "They actually may make new cartilage or repair a ligament by becoming a piece of that ligament or a tendon or a bone if there was a defect in bone," he said.

The stem cell treatments have been successful in other cases as well. Knee MRI's of other patients have shown where new cartilage is growing in and x-rays of broken arms that wouldn't heal have revealed new bone after stem cell injections.

Because of the growing use of stem cells in clinical therapy, the concept of people collecting and storing their own stem cells is growing in popularity. An advantage to storing or using one’s own stem cells is that there's no risk of rejection or contracting infectious disease. There are clinical trials showing promising results using adult stem cells for heart failure, diabetes, lupus, MS and even macular degeneration.

Increasing the Number of Stem Cells Derived from Umbilical Cord Blood Provides Alternative to Bone Marrow Transplantation in Adults

Investigational Product Shown to Expand Population of Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells for Treatment of Leukemia and Lymphoma

November 2, 2009 – At a recent a symposium entitled "Umbilical Cord Blood: An Alternative for Bone Marrow Transplantation in Adults," bone marrow transplantation experts Professor Patrick Stiff and Professor Guillermo Sanz addressed the importance of investigating cord blood stem cells as an alternative source for treating patients with leukemia and lymphoma.

An investigational product now in clinical testing worldwide called StemEx (r) is showing promise as an alternative therapy. StemEx is a graft of an expanded population of stem/progenitor cells derived from part of a single unit of umbilical cord blood and transplanted intravenously, along with the remaining unit of non-manipulated cells.

"The problem is that in the case of a bone marrow transplant, it takes too much time from transplant to engraftment. And, the longer the time to engraftment, the more risk of complications," explained Professor Sanz. "Cord blood offers a real alternative to bone marrow. And, cell dose is the most critical function of a cord blood transplant. The main advantage of StemEx, therefore, is that is offers a reliable investigational product and can provide a high rate of expansion, 200x of the amount of stem cells. We think that StemEx will likely result in a shorter time to engraftment and even potentially generate better results than bone marrow transplantation in the long

Louisville Man is World’s First Cardiac Stem Cell Recipient

Laura Ungar of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports on one of the world’s first recipients of an infusion of cardiac stem cells as a part of a Phase 1 clinical trial being conducted by a team of University of Louisville physicians at Jewish Hospital.

After two heart attacks, Michael Jones of Louisville suffered heart failure that made him so weak he could manage only a few football passes now and then with his grandson. But after becoming one of the world's first heart patients to get an infusion of cardiac stem cells, Jones said he works out on a treadmill and bike and feels invigorated.

“I hope to have as normal a life as anyone,” “the self-employed painting and remodeling contractor said at a news conference Friday. “I might even start jogging again.”

Jones, 66, received an infusion of his own stem cells through a minimally invasive catheterization procedure on July 17— as part of a clinical trial being conducted by a team of University of Louisville physicians at Jewish Hospital. The doctors, who announced the trial and started recruiting patients in February, are using adult cardiac stem cells to heal hearts. They said they were infusing the second patient Friday. A similar procedure, involving slightly different cells, was performed last month in California, doctors said.

“It is an important, historic announcement,” U of L President James Ramsey said. “The No. 1 killer is heart disease, and we in Kentucky have a higher incidence than the national average.”

American Heart Association statistics rank Kentucky seventh-worst in the nation for cardiovascular deaths, with about 14,000 a year. Study leader Dr. Roberto Bolli said heart failure is one of the worst cardiovascular conditions, afflicting about 6 million Americans. Often, the only options for patients are transplants, heart-assist devices or palliative care. Mortality rates are high “and the treatments we have are, by and large, unsatisfactory,” said Bolli, Jewish Hospital Heart and Lung Institute Distinguished Chair in Cardiology. Jones, who had his first heart attack 4 ½ years ago, said he was diagnosed with heart failure about three or four months after that, with blocked arteries that caused permanent scarring of his heart muscle. Doctors said he was a good candidate for the stem cell procedure because he had not yet had bypass surgery.

On March 23, Dr. Mark Slaughter, chief of U of L's division of cardiothoracic surgery, performed coronary artery bypass surgery, removing Jones' cardiac stem cells from a portion of the upper chamber of the heart. The tissue was then frozen and sent to colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard University. There, stem cells were isolated and expanded before being sent back to Jewish Hospital for infusion. After Jones' heart attacks, doctors said his “ejection fraction,” a measurement of the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat, was lower than 25 percent, compared with 50 percent or more for healthy people. Now, doctors said, it's about 30 percent, and they hope it continues to increase. Doctors said they have enrolled 14 patients in the clinical trial so far and hope to treat a total of 20 patients who are suffering from heart failure, have had a heart attack and need to undergo cardiac surgery. They will compare these against 20 control subjects. Bolli said the hospital and doctors are donating their services and facilities, so the costs of the trial are reduced, totaling about $10,000 to $20,000 a patient from U of L research funds. Doctors said this is a Phase I trial, which tests the safety and feasibility of a treatment. At this point, side effects from the stem cells are unknown because they are being used for the first time, doctors said, adding that there's no risk of rejection because they are using a patient's own cells. Potential side effects of the catheterization, which reaches the heart through a large artery in the leg, include infection, bleeding, heart attack and stroke. Another clinical trial is being conducted at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. The difference, Bolli said, is that U of L doctors have injected a pure population of stem cells called “c-kit-positive” cells, while California doctors injected cardiosphere-derived cells, which are a mixture of primitive and partially differentiated cells. If U of L's stem cell procedure succeeds, doctors said, it will be at least three to five years before it becomes a routine treatment. Jones, who said Friday that he has been married for more than 44 years to his high school sweetheart, Shirley, and has two grown children, said he never feared getting the therapy, even though it is experimental.

“I am very, very grateful and honored to be chosen as the first recipient,” said Jones, who lives in southeastern Jefferson County. “This really seemed natural. It just made sense to use the body to regenerate itself.”


Repair Stem Cell Victory of the Week - Two more Windpipes save two more Lives.

We’re still looking for the first Embryonic victory of the decade.

Doctors in Italy announced they have used patients' own stem cells to grow trachea tissue that led to seemingly successful transplanted windpipes in two patients diagnosed with trachea cancer.

Doctors regenerated tissue from the patients' nose and bone marrow stem cells to create tracheas biologically identical to the patients' original organs. Both patients underwent the transplant in early July and were released from the hospital just weeks after the surgery, according to the Associated Press.

One of the patients was able to speak again only a few days after the surgery, said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, professor of surgery at the University of Barcelona in Spain and the head surgeon in the cases.

"They are back to the home, able to speak, able to socialize with everybody," Giovannini told the Associated Press. "Having this quality of life is wonderful."

According to Dr. Mark Iannettoni, head of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at University of Iowa, a trachea is a fragile organ because it is mostly cartilage, which has a poor blood supply.

"Once damaged, it is difficult to get it to heal correctly," said Iannettoni.

Growing a Working Trachea
Trachea cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation and attempts to replace the trachea with mechanical devices have not been effective. However, Dr. Eric Lambright, surgical director of lung transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that using a patient's own stem cells not only could help to rebuild the fragile tissue, but also potentially could bypass the risk of having the organ rejected.

"These patients [are] otherwise sentenced to a significantly horrible quality of life related to their tumors and ... heroic measures may indeed be very appropriate," said Lambright.

According to Macchiarini, the team collected stem cells from the patients' nose and bone marrow, and grew two different types of tissues from the cells that resembled the different surfaces of the trachea. The tissues covered the outer and inner linings of the donor trachea.

Although these were the first stem cell transplants Macchiarini performed on trachea cancer patients, this is not the first trachea transplant of its kind. In 2008, Macchiarini and his surgical team successfully performed a trachea transplant using adult stem cells on a woman who suffered from tuberculosis.

The team transplanted a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells and did not need to administer anti-rejection drugs, according to the case report, published in the December 2008 Lancet.

Sight Restored

Sight Restored to Chemically-Blinded Patients Using Repair Stem Cells

Italian scientists report that they have restored sight to patients blinded by chemical burns using the patient’s own adult stem cells. The team treated 112 patients blinded in one or both eyes; some of whom had been blind for years. Adult stem cells were taken from the edge of a patient’s eye and cultured on fibrin, then the cell layers transplanted onto the damaged eyes. The adult stem cells produced healthy corneas and functioning eyes. Some patients regained sight within two months, while for others with deeper injuries the process took a year before vision was restored. Patients were followed up to ten years after the transplant. After a single transplant, 69% of patients regained vision; in some cases a second transplant occurred, with a total success in 77% of patients and partial vision restoration in 13% of patients. The long-term restoration was an especially encouraging success of the study.

Lead researcher Dr. Graziella Pellegrini, of the University of Modena, said:

“The patients, they are happy, even the partial successes. We have a couple of patients who were blind in both eyes. Can you imagine for these patients the change in their quality of life?”

According to the scientists, the key to success was insuring a high enough concentration of adult stem cells in the graft, so that the stem cells could continue to generate new tissue.